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The largest automotive retailer in the U.S., AutoNation Inc. (AN - Analyst Report) announced the highest February retail new vehicle sales since 2007. Total retail sales of new vehicles increased 4% year over year to 21,987 units in Feb 2014. On a same-store basis, retail new vehicle sales went up 2% from Feb 2013 to 21,560 units.

Retail new vehicle unit sales in AutoNation’s Domestic segment rose 3% to 6,829 vehicles. The segment comprises retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report), Chrysler and others.

Sales in AutoNation’s Import segment improved 4% to 10,822 vehicles in Feb 2014. The segment covers retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Toyota Motor Corporation (TM - Analyst Report), Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (HMC - Analyst Report) and others.

In the Premium Luxury segment, AutoNation’s sales increased 7% to 4,336 vehicles during the month. This segment consists of retail automotive franchises selling vehicles manufactured by Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus and others.

Although AutoNation witnessed higher sales in Feb 2014, the overall scenario for the automobile sector was not as good. U.S. auto sales during the month were impacted by the persistent cold weather. Sales during the month dipped 0.03% from the year-ago level to 1.19 million. Most of the automakers witnessed a year-over-year decline in sales.

Earnings Review

AutoNation reported all-time high adjusted earnings from operations in the fourth quarter of 2013. The company posted a 24% rise in earnings per share to 83 cents in the quarter from 67 cents in the same quarter of 2012. Earnings per share surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 6 cents.

Revenues increased 8.4% to $4.5 billion, marginally missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.6 billion. The upside was attributable to strong performance across all business sectors. The company’s Premium Luxury segment was the biggest gainer in the quarter.

AutoNation is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. As of Mar 4, 2014, the company owned and operated 269 new vehicle franchises that sell 33 brands in the major metropolitan markets of 15 states.

AutoNation currently holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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