CHICAGO, March 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog includeAutoNation Inc. (NYSE: AN), General Motors (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) and Toyota Motor (OTC: DDAIF).
Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:
Luxury Models Continue to Drive AutoNation
AutoNation Inc. (NYSE: AN) revealed an impressive 17% rise in new vehicle sales to 19,994 units in February, mainly driven by strong sales growth in its Premium Luxury brands. This is the strongest sales increase in the past three months.
Sales of the Domestic brands, which comprise stores that sell vehicles manufactured by General Motors (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Chrysler LLC, grew 18% on a year-over-year basis to 6,179 units.
Sales of the Import brands, comprising stores that sell vehicles manufactured by Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM),etc.improved 16% to 10,601 units.
Meanwhile, sales of the Premium Luxury brands, comprising stores that sell vehicles including Daimler AG's (OTC: DDAIF) Mercedes Benz, BMW and Toyota Lexus, escalated 20% to 3,214 units.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, AutoNation saw a profit of $71 million or 51 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with $68 million or 45 cents per share in the comparable quarter of 2010 (excluding debt refinancing costs of $1 million or 1 cent per share, after-tax), reflecting an increase of 13% on a per-share basis. With this, the Zacks #2 Rank (Buy) company has beaten the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 48 cents per share.
Revenue went up 13% to $3.7 billion from $3.2 billion in the year-ago period, driven by stronger retail new and used vehicle sales. It was higher than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.5 billion.
New vehicle revenues appreciated 17% to $2.1 billion. This translated into revenue per vehicle of $34,650, up from $33,465 a year ago. The retailer's new vehicle sales grew 13% to 60,191 units and 10% on a same store basis. The rise in unit sales was higher than the industry sales increase of 7% (CNW Research data).
Last month, light vehicle sales in the U.S. escalated 15.7% to the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 15.1 million units, despite higher gasoline price (up 10% to $3.74 per gallon) and lower spending on discounts and promotions by automakers (down 4.7% to $2,457 per vehicle). In fact, the average price of vehicles went up by a robust $1,943 from February last year, according to TrueCar.com.
The SAAR during the month was the highest achieved by the U.S. auto industry since 2008. The tailwinds that led to improved sales include pent-up demand (when the average age of cars on U.S. roads is 10.8 years), decreasing unemployment and higher consumer confidence.
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