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AutoNation Inc. (AN - Analyst Report) posted a 7% rise in new vehicle sales to 27,199 vehicles in March. Among the three operating segments of AutoNation, growth in the Premium Luxury was the highest in the month. Same-store retail new vehicle sales increased 4% to 26,441 units.

Sales of the Domestic brands, which comprise stores that sell vehicles manufactured by U.S. automakers including General Motors (GM - Analyst Report), grew 6% on a year-over-year basis to 8,448 units.

Sales of the Import brands, comprising stores that sell vehicles manufactured primarily by Japanese automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report), went up 4% to 13,789 units.

Meanwhile, sales of the Premium Luxury brands, comprising stores that sell vehicles including Daimler AG’s (DDAIF) Mercedes Benz, BMW and Toyota Lexus, escalated 15% to 4,962 units.

In the first quarter of 2013, AutoNation’s retail new vehicle unit sales improved 10%. Domestic sales rose 12%, Import up 6%, and Premium Luxury increased 19% from the first quarter of 2012. Same-store retail new vehicle unit sales in the quarter rose 7% on a year-over-year basis.

Auto sales in the U.S. rose by 3.4% year-over-year to 1.45 million vehicles in March, the best monthly sales in almost six years. This translated into a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) of 15.27 million units for the year, up about 8.0% from 14.14 million units in the same month of 2012. Better construction market, cheap financing, strong pent-up demand and improving consumer confidence continue to fuel sales growth.

AutoNation, a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) stock, posted a 31.4% increase in earnings per share from continuing operations 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. In absolute terms, profits escalated 16.3% to $82.9 million from $71.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

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.

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