Bloomberg News

U.S. Auto Sales May Exceed 13.5 Million in 2012, Group 1 Says

October 26, 2011

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. auto sales likely will surpass 13.5 million light vehicles in 2012 on purchases deferred by consumers from this year and improved shipments by Japanese automakers, according to Group 1 Automotive Inc.’s chief executive officer.

“I certainly think that should be a minimum,” Earl Hesterberg, CEO of the Houston-based dealership chain, said in a phone interview today. “With all the pent-up demand, plus better supply in the entire market next year, it’s going to be a significantly better year than this year.”

Light-vehicle deliveries probably will run at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of about 13 million for the remainder of the year, Hesterberg said on a conference call while discussing third-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates. U.S. light-vehicle sales rose to a 13.1 million pace in September, the best rate since April, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Analysts such as Jefferies Group Inc.’s Peter Nesvold reduced estimates for 2012 U.S. auto sales after shortages of vehicles from Japan-based automakers helped push the pace below a 12 million rate in May and June. Jefferies predicts 12.7 million deliveries this year and in 2012, Nesvold, who is based in New York, wrote in an Aug. 17 research note.

“I don’t believe that for a minute,” Hesterberg said on the conference call, referring to estimates for “flat” industry sales for next year. “I’ve witnessed the strength in the market through some of these stock-market gyrations and debt gyrations and we’re still running at 13 million. There’s going to be growth in the market again.”

Group 1 rose 5.9 percent to $46.77 at 3 p.m. New York time after earlier gaining as much as 8.4 percent to $47.88, the highest intraday level since Aug. 1.

The company’s third-quarter profit, excluding some costs, rose 24 percent to $23.8 million, or $1.04 a share, Group 1 said today in a statement. That topped the 97 cents average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Group 1 owns 108 dealerships in the U.S. and the U.K.

--Editors: Bill Koenig, John Lear

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net


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