AutoNation’s fourth-quarter net profit soars on higher used-vehicle revenue

AutoNation Inc.’s fourth-quarter net profit more than doubled as used-vehicle revenue soared 55% to effectively cushion the auto retail giant’s ongoing struggles with low new-vehicle inventories.

The company said net profit soared 156% to $387.1 million. Revenue rose 14% to $6.58 billion in the quarter.

But AutoNation’s new-vehicle business suffered, as it only reported a nine-day supply of new vehicles on Dec. 31, compared to 10 days at the end of September and 42 days at the end of 2020.

“We expect consumer demand for personal vehicle ownership to remain strong for the foreseeable future and we are accelerating our used vehicle autonomous business to meet this demand through our sourcing capabilities, our vehicle selection, our footprint, our digital tools and our core efficiency,” AutoNation CEO Mike Manley, who took over as chief executive on Nov. 1, said in a statement Thursday.

In the fourth quarter, AutoNation acquired nine Maryland dealerships and three collision centers from Priority 1 Automotive Group.

It also opened standalone AutoNation USA used-vehicle stores in Littleton, Colorado, and Avondale, Arizona, in the fourth quarter. And it announced this month that it opened an AutoNation USA in Charlotte, North Carolina, marking its 10th outlet.

The retailer confirmed that it plans to open 12 AutoNation USA locations over the next 12 months, on its way to more than 130 stores by the end of 2026.

In October, the company said in a regulatory filing that it planned to sell 17 collision centers — about a quarter of its store count — to Caliber Holdings in a deal that was expected to close by the end of 2021. He confirmed that the sale took place in the fourth quarter.

AutoNation shares rose 1% to $111.59 in early trading Thursday.

• 4th quarter turnover: $6.58 billion, up 14% from the previous year

Net income for the 4th quarter: $387.1 million, up 156% a year ago

• Adjusted operating profit for the 4th quarter: $521.4 million, up 68% from the previous year

• Vehicle sales in the 4th quarter: AutoNation sold 132,043 new and used vehicles, down 1.4%

• 2021 turnover: $25.84 billion, up 27% from the previous year

• 2021 net income: $1.37 billion, up 260% over the previous year

• 2021 adjusted operating income: $1.89 billion, up 91% from the previous year

• 2021 vehicle sales: AutoNation sold 566,767 new and used vehicles, up 15 percent

• Recordings: Earnings per share for the fourth quarter and full year

• Ranking: AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks #1 on Automotive News‘ most recent list of the top 150 US-based dealer groups, selling 249,654 new vehicles in 2020.