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The automotive retailer AutoNation Inc. (AN - Analyst Report) posted a modest 6% year-over-year increase in retail new vehicle sales to 21,168 units in Feb 2013. The rise was attributable to strong sales of the premium luxury vehicles together with improved contribution from the new stores. The revenues from the stores opened at least a year ago improved by 3%.

Sales in the Premium Luxury segment escalated 19% to 4,046 vehicles for the month. The segment consists of retail automotive franchises selling vehicles manufactured by Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus and others.

Sales in the Domestic segment went up 8% to 6,655 vehicles. The segment comprises retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report), Chrysler and others.

Meanwhile, sales in the Import segment remained flat at 10,467 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.

Auto sales in the U.S. went up 3.7% to 1.19 million vehicles in February, resulting in a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 15.4 million units for the year, 2% higher than 15.1 million units in the same month last year.

The modest increase in sales was driven by improving construction market, cheap financing and strong pent-up demand. However, higher gas prices (up 36 cents to $3.78 per gallon in February) and turbulence in the stock market had adverse impacts on the U.S. auto industry.

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, AutoNation is the largest automotive retailer in the U.S. The company owns and operates about 265 new vehicle franchises that sell 32 brands located in the major metropolitan markets across 15 states.

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 a couple of cents.

Revenues for the quarter increased by 13.5% to $4.2 billion from $3.7 billion in the year-ago quarter. The growth in revenues was driven by strong performance across 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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