For the fourth consecutive quarter, U.S. retailers posted the worst quarterly return among the three auto sectors.
All seven publicly traded dealership groups showed negative value in the third quarter.
Only the retailers' three-year return remains positive.
AutoNation Inc. lost the least in the three-year and quarterly rankings.
AutoNation has benefited from cost reductions because of economies of scale, say PricewaterhouseCoopers analysts.
The retailer continued to buy dealerships in the quarter.
But AutoNation plans to consolidate its 10 districts into five to generate $30 million in pretax savings a year.
UnitedAuto Group Inc. showed the highest one-year return, up 10.7 percent.
Retailers face increased competition because of the incentives war. Those that sell used cars are really feeling the heat.
"Incentives in the new-car market are significantly depressing prices in used cars," says David Hiemstra, manager of transaction services for PricewaterhouseCoopers. "You see the new-car price coming down. But there's a higher margin in used cars."
Group 1 Automotive Inc. posted the lowest quarterly and three-year returns.
CarMax Inc. had the worst one-year return. It was down 34.0 percent.
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