The nation's auto dealers enjoyed their strongest profit levels in 15 years last year.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average dealership pre-tax profit in 2001 was $618,974, on $31.7 million in revenues. That compares with a profit of $455,924 on revenues of $29.4 million the year before.
Profit margins improved dramatically. Pre-tax profit rose to 2.0 percent of revenue last year, the best pre-tax margin since 2.2 percent in 1986. In 2000, the pre-tax margin was just 1.6 percent.
Much of the improvement was the result of low interest rates, which helped dealers control the cost of financing inventory. Other factors contributing to higher profits included the spurt in new-car sales because of 0 percent financing; a healthy used-car market; higher parts and service revenues; and more efficient use of the Internet.