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AutoNation Beats Estimates as Mercedes Drives Demand

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. retailer of new cars and trucks, reported quarterly profit that topped estimates on rising demand for luxury vehicles led by the Mercedes-Benz brand.

Fourth-quarter net income increased 31 percent to $109.4 million, or 89 cents a share, from $83.2 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company said today in a statement. Adjusted profit per share was 83 cents, exceeding the 76-cent average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales rose 8.4 percent to $4.52 billion.

Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson praised Daimler AG’s dual introductions of the revamped flagship S-Class sedan and the new sub-$30,000 CLA coupe for drawing customers to AutoNation dealerships. Demand for those models paced Mercedes as it fended off Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW for U.S. luxury-car sales leadership in 2013 and fueled a 28 percent jump in income from its premium-luxury business.

“We have to give a call-out to Mercedes-Benz in particular with the launch of the S-Class and the CLA at the same time,” Jackson said in a telephone interview. “We had a lot of strength there both on the high end and attracting new customers to Mercedes-Benz that really gave us a particularly strong performance in this fourth quarter.”

AutoNation rose 6.1 percent to $49.89 at the close in New York. The shares gained 25 percent last year as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 30 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net

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

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