AutoNation posts profit in 3Q on lower costs (AP)

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 | Finance News

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest automotive retailer, said Thursday it made money in the third quarter as lower costs and a boost from the Cash for Clunkers program helped it recover from a loss in the year-ago period.

Automakers got a lift from clunkers, which spurred sales of nearly 700,000 new vehicles during the summer months. Big rebates lured in many buyers who otherwise would have waited until later in the year to walk into dealerships.

AutoNation, which owns about 245 new-vehicle franchises in 15 states, previously said it sold 13,000 vehicles during the program.

The company, based in Fort Laudedale, Fla., said it earned $65 million, or 36 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30. It lost $1.41 billion, or $7.99 per share, due to big asset write-downs in the same quarter last year.

AutoNation said sales fell 13 percent to $2.92 billion from $3.36 billion a year ago, but said its new vehicle unit sales decline was in line with industry figures from CNW Research. CEO Mike Jackson said the clunkers program boosted the company's bottom line by 7 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn 35 cents per share on $3.13 billion in sales.