Top Auto Dealer Cashes In on Consumers Settling for Used Cars

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© Reuters. Top Auto Dealer Cashes In on Consumers Settling for Used Cars© Reuters. Top Auto Dealer Cashes In on Consumers Settling for Used Cars

(Bloomberg) — Rising car prices are pushing more Americans out of the new-car market, but that’s not a problem for AutoNation Inc (NYSE:).

The biggest auto dealer in the U.S reported record fourth quarter and 2019 earnings thanks in part to profits from used cars, which jumped 21% in the last three months of the year on a same-store basis.

Automakers had another year of more than 17 million new-vehicle sales in 2019, though they propped up deliveries by spending on incentives and relying on rental-car companies. Consumers are likely to buy fewer new cars and trucks in 2020, but the used market will keep total volume for dealers roughly flat, said Cheryl Miller, AutoNation’s chief executive officer.

“That’s because of affordability,” Miller said in a phone interview. “Given that increase again in new-vehicle pricing, we’re going to see some preference for used vehicles for consumers.”

AutoNation earned $1.74 a share from continuing operations in the fourth quarter, up from $1.02 in the year ago period. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based retailer’s shares surged as much as 11% on Tuesday, their biggest intraday jump since July.

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