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The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based automotive retailer AutoNation Inc. (AN - Analyst Report) posted a 22% year-over-year increase in retail new vehicle unit sales to 19,402 vehicles in Jan 2013. The rise was attributable to strong sales across all the segments. On a same-store basis, retail new vehicle sales went up 18% to 18,891 units.

Sales in the Domestic segment jumped 26% to 6,159 vehicles. The segment comprises retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report), Chrysler and others.

Sales in the Import segment escalated 18% to 9,388 vehicles. The segment covers retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report), Honda Motor Co. (HMC - Analyst Report) and others.

Sales in the Premium Luxury segment surged 24% to 3,855 vehicles during the month. The segment consists of retail automotive franchises selling vehicles manufactured by Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus and others.

On daily selling rate basis, the company’s retail new vehicle unit sales increased 17% last month, which had 25 selling days compared with 24 selling days a year ago.

Auto sales in the U.S. went up 14.2% to 1.04 million vehicles in January, resulting in a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 15.3 million units for the year, which is nearly 1 million units higher than 2012.

Sales were boosted by strong pent-up demand owing to the increase in average age of vehicles on U.S. roads to 11.3 years from 10.8 years in 2012. Banks also supported the sales growth by providing greater access to loans with lower interest rates. In addition, improving job market boosted the consumer sentiment to purchase new cars.

Recently, AutoNation reported a 31.4% increase in earnings per share to 67 cents in the fourth quarter of 2012 from 51 cents in the corresponding quarter last year. With this, profits surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2 cents.

Revenues for the quarter increased 13.5% to $4.2 billion from $3.7 billion in the year-ago quarter. The growth in revenues was driven by strong performance of all the businesses. Revenues were ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.0 billion. The company retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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