Biggest U.S. Car Dealer Declares the Recovery Is Underway

(Bloomberg) -- AutoNation Inc., the biggest car-dealership chain in the U.S., said consumers’ desire to travel again and do so in their own personal space is driving the industry’s rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Demand started to pick up at the end of April as shutdown orders eased, Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson said Monday after the retailer reported first-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates. The comments comport with market researcher J.D. Power’s findings that retail sales declines have moderated for five consecutive weeks.

“There’s a drumbeat around personal safety and personal space -- this is what customers are telling us as they come to look at vehicles,” Jackson, 71, said by phone. “They’re planning to drive on their next vacation, and they want personal space. There’s obviously pent-up demand.”

AutoNation’s revenue from domestic brands sold by Detroit’s three automakers outperformed import and luxury brands in the first quarter. Revenue from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV models fell 5.4% while luxury was down 6.8% and imports were down 9%. The results likely reflect strong demand for pickups, which outsold passenger cars in April.

AutoNation’s shares rose as much as 9.6% shortly after the open of regular trading. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based retailer reported adjusted earnings of 91 cents, down from the first quarter of last year but better than the 70-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue fell 6.3% to $4.67 billion.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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