Group 1 Q1 profit rises 7%, revenue up 15%

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Group 1 Automotive Inc. reported first-quarter net income of $31.3 million, a 7 percent improvement over the same quarter a year ago. The retailer's revenue rose 15 percent to $2.3 billion.

The company's U.S. revenue rose 7 percent to $1.8 billion. That growth was primarily attributed to a 4 percent increase in sales of new units to 29,947, an 8 percent increase in sales of used units to 22,743, and a 6 percent increase in same-store parts and service revenue, the company said in a statement.

Group 1's U.S. new-unit sales growth outpaced the U.S. auto industry, which grew 1 percent in the first quarter.

Overall, the company's new-unit sales grew 14 percent to 37,749 new vehicles in the quarter and its used-vehicle retail sales grew 16 percent to 26,877.

The company also operates dealerships in the United Kingdom and Brazil.

"Despite a difficult start to the year due to significant weather disruption, we were able to achieve respectable financial results for the quarter due to a very strong performance in March," said Group 1 CEO Earl Hesterberg said.

"Our March results were driven by all-time record performance in our U.K. operations and extremely strong vehicle sales in the U.S., especially in Texas and Oklahoma." 

Hesterberg said business in January and February was “severely hampered by extreme weather” that led to store closures, reduced floor traffic and incremental costs.

He said sales recovered in March and were strong, but it’s not possible to recover parts and service business lost to bad weather. That’s because most dealerships’ service departments run at or near full capacity.

He said businesses in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Maryland were hardest hit and there also were multiple store closures in South Carolina, Georgia and northern Texas.

“We lost about 9 percent of total available selling days, through the 16th of February,” Hesterberg told analysts and reporters during Group 1’s conference call today.

Hesterberg said he believes that this year’s U.S. sales will total about 16.3 million, and the company’s April performance is consistent with that it saw in March and prior to January and February.

“The underlying demand for new and used vehicles in the U.S. is still pretty strong,” he said.

Group 1 ranks third on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States, with retail sales of 155,866 new vehicles and 98,813 used vehicles in 2013.

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com.


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