In the first quarter of 2015, the seven publicly traded dealership groups (CarMax, AutoNation, Penske, Sonic, Group1, Asbury, and Lithia) enjoyed a same-store increase in retail used unit deliveries for the 23rd consecutive quarter. The sales-weighted same-store unit gain for the quarter was 6.7%. Adding in store acquisitions, total used retail volume for the seven groups was up 12.3%.
Gross margins, which have been trending down for some time, fell to 9.6% in the first quarter of 2015. That represented a normal seasonal uptick from the fourth quarter’s 9.2% margin, but was down from the 9.8% margin posted in the first quarter of 2014.
The average used vehicle selling price for these dealer groups rose 1.2% to $20,457. This reflected a richer mix of units and a higher share of sales accounted for by certified units. Higher sales prices and steady margins combined with increased operating efficiencies to produce record profits. It’s those profit opportunities that kept dealers bidding at auction.
(Note: CarMax’s December-February fiscal quarter was shifted forward one month to correspond to the calendar quarter.)