AutoNation Tops Estimates Overcoming Cold Start to Year

AutoNation Inc. (AN), the largest U.S. retailer of new cars and trucks, reported quarterly profit that topped estimates even as horrible winter weather kept many car buyers home for much of January and February.

First-quarter net income increased 15 percent to $95.1 million, or 78 cents a share, from $83 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company said today in a statement. Adjusted profit per share was 75 cents, exceeding the 73-cent average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue rose 6.5 percent to $4.36 billion.

“In spite of the freeze of 2014, which lasted the first 10 weeks of the first quarter, AutoNation still delivered solid results,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson said today in prepared remarks.

Blizzard conditions and frigid temperatures kept car buyers away in January and February, which caused industrywide auto sales to fall 1.4 percent, according to researcher Autodata Corp. But a stronger than expect March with deliveries rising 5.7 percent means that sales through the first three months of the year are now up 1.4 percent. AutoNation’s retail sales rose 5 percent while the industry rose 4 percent, the company said. The industry rebounded sharply in the final 10 days of March.

AutoNation also said it wants to reduce dealings with third-party companies such as TrueCar Inc. and Cars.com that sell leads of interested car and truck buyers. It’s part of an effort to control the shopping experience, the company said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in New York at thiggins21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net Niamh Ring

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