AutoNation Q1 profits, revenue hit by virus

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AutoNation Inc.’s first-quarter results were hampered by slower business and stay-at-home orders across most of its footprint amid the coronavirus pandemic, driving the auto retail giant to a net loss.

The nation’s largest new-vehicle retailer said Monday that first-quarter revenues dropped 6.3 percent to $4.67 billion. Lower revenues and $315 million in after-tax noncash goodwill, franchise rights and other impairment charges mostly related to COVID-19 led to a net loss of $232.3 million. That compared with net income of $92 million in 2019’s first quarter.

When adjusted for the special charges, net income from continuing operations was $82.4 million, down 4 percent. In the year-ago quarter, AutoNation had $6 million in after-tax gains on store divestitures.

AutoNation said its same-store new and used retail unit sales plunged 52 percent during the first 10 days of April but were down just 19 percent during the last 10 days of the month. For all of April, same-store new and used retail sales fell 37 percent.

As of May 8, the company said states where it earns about 51 percent of its revenues were largely under stay-at-home orders. In early April, states where AutoNation collects about 95 percent of revenue were under such orders.

New-vehicle and used-vehicle revenues fell in the quarter, while parts and service and finance and insurance revenues were near flat.

In early April, AutoNation said it had placed about 7,000 employees on unpaid leave and temporarily cut employee base pay, froze new hiring, trimmed advertising costs by about half for the second quarter and postponed more than $50 million in capital expenditures.

CEO Cheryl Miller, who was granted leave later in April for undisclosed health reasons, and Mike Jackson, the retailer’s executive chairman who was named CEO until Miller returns, each took 50 percent salary cuts. Other executives and corporate and regional staff also have taken pay cuts ranging from 20 to 35 percent.

AutoNation said it had liquidity of more than $1.4 billion as of May 8, including more than $750 million in cash and about $650 million available in its revolving credit facility.

AutoNation shares closed at $38.32 on Friday, up 5.1 percent.

Records: All-time same-store finance and insurance gross profit per vehicle retailed of $2,089.

Sales: New-vehicle sales tumbled 11 percent to 56,739. Used-vehicle sales fell 8.2 percent to 56,149.

Same-store sales: New-vehicle sales on a same-store basis declined 8.8 percent to 56,692. That compared with a U.S. new light-vehicle sales decline of 12 percent during the first quarter, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Used-vehicle sales on a same-store basis dropped 6.2 percent to 56,093.

AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 1 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 282,602 new vehicles in 2019.

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Saurabh Shukla

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