Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation on Wednesday reported its best quarter for new vehicle sales in six years, despite a dip in September sales prompted by an accounting shift.
The country's largest auto retailer said its sales of new vehicles rose 13 percent for the July-September quarter from a year earlier. August sales had jumped 32 percent, partly because Labor Day came early and the weekend's sales were counted in August. September sales dipped 10 percent from a year ago without the Labor Day weekend numbers, AutoNation said.
Same-store sales for the quarter, not counting new outlets opened, rose 8 percent from last year, the company said in a news release.
The strong quarter comes as the U.S. economy continues to recover from recession, and motorists replace their aging cars with newer models that offer better gas mileage and more high-tech features, often financing the purchases with widely available low-cost loans.
AutoNation has predicted that the U.S. market for new vehicles will reach about 15.5 million this year, up from 14.5 million last year and up from 10.4 million at the depths of the recession in 2009.
The company has been investing to capitalize on that rebound, remodeling stores and adding new ones.
This month, it plans to starts renovation and expansion of its Chevrolet outlet in Coral Gables at a cost to top $11 million. That includes $5 million to remodel the showroom by June, plus at least $6 million more to relocate and expand its service and maintenance center across the street by 2015.
The Chevrolet project will comply with new Miami "21" zoning requirements and also aims to help revitalize the SW 8th Street area known as "Calle Ocho," company executives said.
AutoNation announced in April 2011 that it would invest an "unprecedented" $500 million in new stores and upgrades over several years. It invested earlier than most rivals and capitalized more than others on the industry's recovery, auto analysts said.
In the third quarter, AutoNation said it sold 76,743 new vehicles. That included 23,782 for its domestic division, up 17 percent from a year earlier; 39,092 for its import division, up 9 percent, and 13,869 for its premium luxury division, up 19 percent from a year ago.
AutoNation now has 267 new vehicle franchises, which sell 33 new vehicle brands across 15 states. It has slightly fewer stores, because some outlets sell more than one brand.
Original headline: AutoNation posts best quarter in new vehicle sales in six years
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