July 22, 2019 / 10:32 PM / 3 months ago

AutoNation names new CEO, posts strong quarterly profit

DETROIT (Reuters) - AutoNation Inc (AN.N), the largest U.S. auto dealership chain, on Monday named a new chief executive four months after picking someone else for the position, while posting a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit.

AutoNation CEO Cheryl Miller is shown in this undated photo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., provided July 22, 2019. AutoNation/Handout via REUTERS

Cheryl Miller, who was AutoNation’s chief financial officer, immediately replaces Carl Liebert, who will remain for 30 days to assist with the transition.

Liebert assumed the CEO position on March 11, a month after his hiring was announced from financial services company USAA, where he had been chief operating officer.

“We always that it would be a challenge for someone to get the auto retail business around their head and I think the conclusion was mutual that this was not the right fit,” AutoNation Executive Chairman Mike Jackson said in a telephone interview.

Jackson added he was excited to announce Miller’s promotion, citing her almost 20 years of experience with automotive retail. She had been CFO since 2014 and joined the company in 2009.

“I’m also am thrilled that for the first time in history we have a woman who is a CEO of a publicly traded auto retailer,” he said.

AutoNation said Miller had led several strategic initiatives, including the building of the company’s partnership with Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo and helping AutoNation achieve investment-grade status.

AutoNation also said on Monday that its second-quarter earnings rose to $100.8 million, or $1.12 a share, from $97.6 million, or $1.07 a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue was essentially flat at $5.34 billion.

The second quarter this year included a noncash franchise rights impairment charge of 8 cents a share.

Analysts were expecting $1.06 a share on revenue of $5.29 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

AutoNation’s profits have been under pressure as U.S. new vehicle sales have weakened after a long bull run since the end of the financial crisis of 2008.

Same-store new vehicle gross profit per vehicle sold in the quarter was $1,764, up 10% compared to the year-ago period. Same-store used vehicle gross profit was relatively flat at $1,459 per vehicle. Same-store customer financial services gross profit rose 7% to an all-time high of $1,926 per vehicle.

Jim Bender was promoted to chief operating officer from executive vice president of sales, and chief accounting officer Christopher Cade was named interim CFO during the search for a permanent replacement, AutoNation said.

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Tom Brown

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