Buoyed by strong luxury-brand sales, new dealerships and a robust California market, AutoNation Inc., the country's largest auto dealership group, reported a 6 percent gain in sales in February.
AutoNation's new-vehicle retail sales for the month totaled 21,168 vehicles, up from 19,994 a year ago. That increase was helped by the sales boost the dealership group received from six Texas stores it acquired late last year. On a same-store basis, AutoNation's sales rose 3 percent, just behind the industry pace. U.S. new-vehicle sales rose 4 percent in February.
"Some of the bright spots are that our premium luxury business was up 16 percent, our pickup truck business was up 16 percent also, and -- believe it or not -- the state of California was strong, plus 10 percent," AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said today on CNBC.
The big driver of the luxury increase was a 38 percent jump in same-store BMW sales.
At AutoNation's domestic-brand dealerships, sales rose 4 percent on a same-store basis and 8 percent overall. Sales at import-brand stores dropped 2 percent on a same-store basis and were flat overall.
Jackson noted that strong used-car values are driving vehicle trades.
The industry is being helped by the availability of "great financing, great new products and a genuine replacement need," he said. "The recovery in auto is plowing through all the headwinds."