AutoNation Inc., the nation's biggest auto retailer, reported a net loss of $403.1 million for the fourth quarter and net earnings of $282.9 million for the year ended Dec. 31. Revenue for the year was $20.1 billion, up 59 percent.
The company attributed the weak results to a pre-tax charge of $478.5 million related to the closing of 23 used-car superstores in December.
AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said he expects the company to start acquiring dealerships again in 2001. Until then, he said, AutoNation will concentrate on becoming a new-vehicle retailer with a low-cost structure that gives consumers good dealership experiences.
Jackson said AutoNation expects to own at least 15 percent of any market in which it competes. Given the company's ambitious expansion plans, that 15 percent share could lead to astronomical revenue of more than $100 billion a year, he said.
'If we perfect our model, the company can grow for a very, very long time, which is what the investment community wants to see,' Jackson said during a meeting with Automotive News editorial staff members on Friday, Jan. 28.
Currently, the investment community is skeptical. AutoNation's stock price hovered around $8 a share on Jan. 28, far from its all-time high of $42.73 in January 1997.
When Jackson took over as CEO in October, he became a member of AutoNation's board of directors. He occupies the seat formerly held by Steve Berrard, the company's former co-CEO, who left the board in October.
AutoNation has 406 franchises at 290 locations. It spends $200 million a year on local advertising.