Seven months into her job leading the nation's top new-vehicle retailer, Cheryl Miller said she is focused on growing AutoNation Inc.'s core auto retail business, while also keeping a foot in the future.
Miller told the audience at Automotive News Retail Forum: NADA that AutoNation struck a balance with its new-vehicle volume vs. profitability model toward the end of last year.
"Last year, we started out the year with a little bit of a lag in units, but we caught up and delivered profit there," she said.
AutoNation last year opted to pivot toward improving new-vehicle margins over volume, and same-store sales fell by double-digit percentages.
But that strategy was altered mid-year to more of a balanced approach. And this week, AutoNation posted higher fourth-quarter net income in which same-store new-vehicle sales fell 3.1 percent, but same-store gross profit per new vehicle rose 4.5 percent.
Heading into 2020, Miller said she's focused on AutoNation's brand extension strategy and continuing to grow areas of the business such as parts and service and used-vehicle sales.
Miller also has eyes on future changes in auto retail. AutoNation in 2018 invested $50 million into used-vehicle marketplace Vroom and last year expanded its partnership with Waymo to begin autonomously delivering auto parts from its Toyota Tempe dealership in Arizona.
Miller, who was appointed CEO in July and previously was CFO, also offered some advice to future leaders in auto retail.
"Be resilient," she said. "Certain days you come in and there's days you think you're winning, there's days you think you're losing. Stick with it."