Dailystocks.com - Ticker-based level links to all the information for the Stocks you own. Portal for Daytrading and Finance and Investing Web Sites
DailyStocks.com
What's New
Site Map
Help
FAQ
Log In
Home Quotes/Data/Chart Warren Buffett Fund Letters Ticker-based Links Education/Tips Insider Buying Index Quotes Forums Finance Site Directory
OTCBB Investors Daily Glossary News/Edtrl Company Overviews PowerRatings China Stocks Buy/Sell Indicators Company Profiles About Us
Nanotech List Videos Magic Formula Value Investing Daytrading/TA Analysis Activist Stocks Wi-fi List FOREX Quote ETF Quotes Commodities
Make DailyStocks Your Home Page AAII Ranked this System #1 Since 1998 Bookmark and Share


Welcome!
Welcome to the investing community at DailyStocks where we believe we have some of the most intelligent investors around. While we have had an online presence since 1997 as a portal, we are just beginning the forums section now. Our moderators are serious investors with MBA and CFAs with practical experience wwell-versed in fundamental, value, or technical investing. We look forward to your contribution to this community.

Recent Topics
Article by DailyStocks_admin    (08-18-08 05:50 AM)

Filed with the SEC from July 31 to Aug 6:

AutoNation (AN)
Edward Lampert raised his stake to 77.68 million shares (44%), after buying 6.4 million shares from June 2 to July 30 for more than $70 million.

BUSINESS OVERVIEW

Introduction

AutoNation, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is the largest automotive retailer in the United States. As of December 31, 2007, we owned and operated 322 new vehicle franchises from 244 dealerships located in major metropolitan markets, predominantly in the Sunbelt region of the United States. Our stores, which we believe are some of the most recognizable and well-known in our key markets, sell 38 different brands of new vehicles. The core brands of vehicles that we sell, representing approximately 96% of the new vehicles that we sold in 2007, are manufactured by Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Chrysler, Daimler, and BMW.

We operate in a single operating and reporting segment, automotive retailing. We offer a diversified range of automotive products and services, including new vehicles, used vehicles, vehicle maintenance and repair services, vehicle parts, extended service contracts, vehicle protection products, and other aftermarket products. We also arrange financing for vehicle purchases through third-party finance sources. We believe that the significant scale of our operations and the quality of our managerial talent allow us to achieve efficiencies in our key markets by, among other things, leveraging our market brands and advertising, improving asset management, implementing standardized processes, and increasing productivity across all of our stores.

We were incorporated in Delaware in 1991. Our common stock, par value $.01 per share, is listed on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “AN.” For information concerning our financial condition, results of operations, and related financial data, you should review the “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data” sections of this document. You also should review and consider the risks relating to our business, operations, financial performance, and cash flows that we describe below under “Risk Factors.”

For convenience, the terms “AutoNation,” “Company,” and “we” are used to refer collectively to AutoNation, Inc. and its subsidiaries, unless otherwise required by the context. Our dealership operations are conducted by our subsidiaries.

Availability of Reports and Other Information

Our corporate website is located at http://corp.AutoNation.com. We make available on this website, free of charge, access to our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, Proxy Statements on Schedule 14A, and amendments to those materials filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically submit such material to the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”). We also make available on our website copies of materials regarding our corporate governance policies and practices, including the AutoNation, Inc. Corporate Governance Guidelines, our company-wide Code of Business Ethics, our Code of Ethics for Senior Officers, our Code of Business Ethics for the Board of Directors, and the charters relating to the committees of our Board of Directors. You also may obtain a printed copy of the foregoing materials by sending a written request to: Investor Relations Department, AutoNation, Inc., 110 S.E. 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301. In addition, the Commission’s website is located at http://www.sec.gov. The Commission makes available on this website, free of charge, reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers, such as us, that file electronically with the Commission. Information on our website or the Commission’s website is not part of this document.

Business Strategy

As a specialty retailer, our business model is focused on developing and maintaining satisfied relationships with our customers. The foundation of our business model is operational excellence. We pursue the following strategies to achieve our targeted level of operational excellence:


• Deliver a positive customer experience at our stores

• Leverage our significant scale to improve our operating efficiency

• Increase our productivity

• Build a powerful brand in each of our local markets

Our strategies are supported by our use of information technology. We use the Internet to develop and acquire customer leads and referrals, and we leverage information technology to enhance our customer relationships.

A key component of our strategy is to maximize the return on investment generated by the use of cash flow that our business generates. We expect to use our cash flow to make capital investments in our current business, to complete dealership acquisitions, and to repurchase our common stock pursuant to our Board-authorized share repurchase programs. Our capital allocation decisions will be based on such factors as the expected rate of return on our investment, the market price of our common stock versus our view of its intrinsic value, the potential impact on our capital structure, our ability to complete dealership acquisitions that meet our return on investment target, and limitations set forth in our debt agreements. We also divest non-core stores in order to improve our portfolio of stores in furtherance of our brand portfolio strategy as described in the next paragraph and also to generate sales proceeds that can be reinvested at a higher expected rate of return.

As part of our business strategy, our acquisition and divestiture program has been and is designed to improve our store brand portfolio by diversifying our store mix more towards volume import and premium luxury brands. In 1999, approximately 60% of our new vehicle revenue was attributable to our domestic franchises (consisting of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler franchises), while approximately 40% was attributable to import and premium luxury franchises. In 2007, approximately 65% of our new vehicle revenue was generated by import and premium luxury franchises and approximately 35% was generated by domestic franchises. For the foreseeable future, we intend to continue focusing on improving our brand portfolio by increasing our mix of higher volume import and premium luxury stores.

Deliver a Positive Customer Experience

Our goal is to deliver a positive customer experience at our stores. Our efforts to improve our customers’ experience at our stores include the following practices and initiatives in key areas of our business:


• Improving Customer Service: The success of our stores depends in significant part on our ability to deliver positive experiences to our customers. We have developed and implemented standardized customer-friendly sales and service processes, including a customer-friendly sales menu designed to provide clear disclosure of purchase or lease transaction terms. We believe these processes improve the sales and service experiences of our customers. We emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction to our key store personnel by basing a portion of their compensation on the quality of customer service they provide in connection with vehicle sales and service.

• Increasing Parts and Service Sales: Our goal is that our customers will use us for all of their vehicle service needs. Our key initiatives for our parts and service business are focused on optimizing our processes, pricing, and promotion. We have implemented across all of our stores standardized service processes and marketing communications, which are designed to ensure that we offer our existing and potential customers the complete range of vehicle maintenance and repair services. Our service processes and marketing communications are focused on increasing our customer-pay service and parts business. As a result of our significant scale, we believe we can communicate frequently and effectively with our customers. We optimize our pricing to maintain a competitive offering for commonly performed vehicle services and repairs for like-brand vehicles within each of our markets.


• Increasing Finance, Insurance and Other Aftermarket Product Sales: We continue to improve our finance and insurance business by using our standardized processes across our store network. Our customers are presented with the “AutoNation Pledge,” which provides clear disclosure relating to the finance and insurance sales process, and with a customer-friendly finance and insurance menu, which is designed to ensure that we offer our customers the complete range of finance, insurance, protection, and other aftermarket products in a transparent manner. We believe the combination of our pledge and our menu improves our customers’ shopping experience for finance and insurance products at our stores. We offer our customers aftermarket products such as extended service contracts, maintenance programs, theft deterrent systems and various insurance products. We continue to focus on optimizing the mix of finance sources available for our customers’ convenience.

Leverage Our Significant Scale

We leverage our scale as the largest automotive retailer in the United States to further improve our cost structure by obtaining significant cost savings in our business. The following practices and initiatives reflect our commitment to leveraging our scale and managing cost:


• Managing New Vehicle Inventories: We manage our new vehicle inventories to optimize our stores’ supply and mix of vehicle inventory. Through the use of our planning and tracking systems in markets where our stores have critical mass in a particular brand, we view new vehicle inventories at those same brand stores in the aggregate and coordinate vehicle ordering and inventories across those stores. We manage our new vehicle inventory to achieve specific days supply targets. We also target our new vehicle inventory purchasing to our core, or most popular, model packages. We are focused on maintaining appropriate inventory levels in order to minimize carrying costs. We believe our inventory management enables us to (1) respond to customer requests better than independent retailers in the markets where we have a critical mass in a particular brand, (2) minimize carrying costs by maintaining lower days supply, and (3) better plan and forecast inventory levels.

• Increasing Used Vehicle Sales and Managing Used Vehicle Inventories: Each of our stores offers a variety of used vehicles. We believe that we have access to desirable used vehicle inventory and are in a position to realize the benefits of vehicle manufacturer-supported certified used vehicle programs, which we believe are improving consumers’ attitudes toward used vehicles. Our used vehicle business strategy is focused on (1) utilizing our web-based vehicle inventory management system to leverage our local market inventory and optimize our supply, mix, and pricing, (2) managing our used vehicle inventory to enable us to offer our customers a wide selection of desirable lower-cost vehicles, which are often in high demand by consumers, and (3) leveraging our scale with comprehensive used vehicle marketing programs, such as market-wide promotional events and standardized approaches to advertising that we can implement more effectively than smaller retailers because of our size. We have deployed used vehicle specialists in each of our key markets to assist us in executing our strategy.

• Managing Costs: We actively manage our business and leverage our scale to reduce costs. We continue to focus on developing national vendor relationships to standardize our stores’ approach to purchasing certain equipment, supplies, and services, and to improve our cost efficiencies. As an example, we realize cost efficiencies with respect to advertising and facilities maintenance that are generally not available to smaller retailers.

Increase Productivity

The following are examples of key initiatives we have implemented to increase productivity:


• Managing Employee Productivity and Compensation: We continue to enhance standardized compensation guidelines and common element pay plans at our stores. These guidelines and pay plans take into account our sales volume, customer satisfaction, gross margin objectives, vehicle brand, and the size of the store. Our goals are to improve employee productivity, to reward and retain high-performing employees, and to ensure appropriate variability of our compensation expense.


• Using Information Technology: We are leveraging information technology to enhance our customer relationships and increase productivity. We use a web-based customer relationship management tool across all of our stores. We believe this tool enables us to promote and sell our vehicles and other products more effectively by allowing us to better understand our customer traffic flows and better manage our showroom sales processes and customer relationships. We have developed a company-wide customer database that contains information on our stores’ existing and potential customers. We believe our customer database enables us to implement more effectively our vehicle sales and service marketing programs. We expect our customer database and other tools to empower us to implement our customer relationship strategy more effectively and improve our productivity.

• Training Employees: One of our key initiatives to improve our productivity is our customized comprehensive training program for key store employees. We believe that having well-trained personnel is an essential requirement for implementing standardized operating practices and policies across all of our stores. Our training program educates our key store employees about their respective job roles and responsibilities and our standardized processes in all of our areas of operation, including sales, finance and insurance, and parts and service. Our training program also emphasizes the importance of conducting our operations, including our finance and insurance sales operations, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and our policies and ethical standards. As part of our training program, we conduct specialized training for certain of our store employees in areas such as finance and insurance, fixed operations, and sales. We also require all of our employees, from our senior management to our technicians, to participate in our Business Ethics Program, which includes web-based interactive training programs, live training workshops, written manuals, and videos on specific topics. We also run the AutoNation General Manager University to prepare our future general manager prospects to become well-rounded successful leaders of our stores. We expect our comprehensive training program to improve our productivity by ensuring that all of our employees consistently execute our business strategy and manage our daily operations in accordance with our common processes and policies, applicable laws and regulations, and our high standards of business ethics.

Build Powerful Local-Market Brands

In many of our key markets where we have significant presence, we are marketing our non-premium luxury stores under a local retail brand. We continue to position these local retail brands to communicate to customers the key features that we believe differentiate our stores in our branded markets from our competitors, such as the large inventory available for customers, our sales, service, and finance and insurance standardized processes, and the competitive pricing we offer for widely available services. We believe that by having our stores within each local market speak with one voice to the automobile-buying public, we can achieve marketing and advertising cost savings and efficiencies that generally are not available to many of our local competitors. We also believe that we can create strong retail brand awareness in our markets.

We have fifteen local brands in our key markets, including “Maroone” in South Florida; “GO” in Denver, Colorado; “AutoWay” in Tampa, Florida; “Bankston” in Dallas, Texas; “Courtesy” in Orlando, Florida; “Desert” in Las Vegas, Nevada; “Team” in Atlanta, Georgia; “Mike Shad” in Jacksonville, Florida; “Dobbs” in Memphis, Tennessee; “Fox” in Baltimore, Maryland; “Mullinax” in Cleveland, Ohio; “Appleway” in Spokane, Washington; “Champion” in South Texas; “Power” in Southern California and Arizona; and “AutoWest” in Northern California. The stores we operate under local retail brands as of December 31, 2007, accounted for approximately 61% of our total revenue during fiscal 2007.

Operations

Each of our stores acquires new vehicles for retail sale either directly from the applicable automotive manufacturer or distributor or through dealer trades with other stores of the same franchise. Accordingly, we depend in large part on the automotive manufacturers and distributors to provide us with high-quality vehicles that customers desire and to supply us with such vehicles at suitable quantities and prices and at the right times. Our operations, particularly our sales of new vehicles, are impacted by the sales incentive programs conducted by the automotive manufacturers to spur consumer demand for their vehicles. These sales incentive programs are often not announced in advance and therefore can be difficult to plan for when ordering inventory. We generally acquire used vehicles from customer trade-ins, auctions, lease terminations, and other sources. We generally recondition used vehicles acquired for retail sale at our stores’ service facilities and capitalize costs related thereto as used vehicle inventory. Used vehicles that we do not sell at our stores generally are sold at wholesale through auctions.

We offer a wide variety of financial products and services to our customers. We arrange for our customers to finance vehicles through installment loans or leases with third-party lenders, including the vehicle manufacturers’ and distributors’ captive finance subsidiaries, in exchange for a commission payable to us. Commissions that we receive may be subject to chargeback, in full or in part, if loans that we arrange default or are prepaid or upon other specified circumstances. However, our exposure to loss in connection with these financing arrangements generally is limited to the commissions that we receive. We do not directly finance our customers’ vehicle leases or purchases.

We also offer our customers various vehicle protection products, including extended service contracts, maintenance programs, guaranteed auto protection (known as “GAP,” this protection covers the shortfall between a customer’s loan balance and insurance payoff in the event of a casualty), “tire and wheel” protection, and theft protection products. The vehicle protection products that our stores currently offer to customers are underwritten and administered by independent third parties, including the vehicle manufacturers’ and distributors’ captive finance subsidiaries. We primarily sell the products on a straight commission basis; however, we also participate in future underwriting profit for certain products pursuant to retrospective commission arrangements. Commissions that we receive from these third-party providers may be subject to chargebacks, in full or in part, if products that we sell, such as extended service contracts, are cancelled.

Our stores also provide a wide range of vehicle maintenance, repair, paint, and collision repair services, including warranty work that can be performed only at franchised dealerships and customer-pay service work.

Sales and Marketing

We retailed approximately 540,000 new and used vehicles through our stores in 2007. We sell a broad range of well-known vehicle brands within each of our markets.

Our marketing efforts focus on mass marketing and targeted marketing in our local markets and are designed to build our business with a broad base of repeat, referral, and new customers. We engage in marketing and advertising primarily through newspapers, radio, television, direct mail, and outdoor billboards in our local markets. As we have consolidated our operations in certain of our key markets under one local retail brand name, we have been able to focus our efforts on building consumer awareness of the selected local retail brand name rather than on the individual legacy names under which many of our stores operated prior to their acquisition by us. We also continue to develop newspaper, television, and radio advertising campaigns that we can modify for use in multiple local markets. We realize cost efficiencies with respect to advertising expenses that are not generally available to smaller retailers due to our ability to obtain efficiencies in developing advertising campaigns and our ability to gain volume discounts and other concessions as we increase our presence within our key markets and operate our non-premium luxury stores under a single retail brand name in our local markets.

We also have been able to use our significant scale to market our stores and vehicle inventory via the Internet. According to industry analysts, the majority of new car buyers nationwide consult the Internet for new car information, which is resulting in better-informed customers and a more efficient sales process. As part of our e-commerce marketing strategy, we are focused on (1) developing websites and an Internet sales process that appeal to on-line automobile shoppers, (2) obtaining high visibility on the Internet through alliances with Internet search engines, such as Google, through our own websites, and through strategic partnerships and alliances with e-commerce companies, and (3) developing and maintaining a cost structure that permits us to operate efficiently.

Agreements with Vehicle Manufacturers

We have entered into framework agreements with most major vehicle manufacturers and distributors. These agreements, which are in addition to the franchise agreements described in the following paragraph, contain provisions relating to our management, operation, advertising and marketing, and acquisition and ownership structure of automotive stores franchised by such manufacturers. These agreements contain certain requirements pertaining to our operating performance (with respect to matters such as sales volume, sales effectiveness, and customer satisfaction), which, if we do not satisfy, adversely impact our ability to make further acquisitions of such manufacturer’s stores or could result in us being compelled to take certain actions, such as divesting a significantly underperforming store, subject to applicable state franchise laws. Additionally, these agreements set limits (nationally, regionally, and in local markets) on the number of stores that we may acquire of the particular manufacturer and contain certain restrictions on our ability to name and brand our stores. Some of these framework agreements give the manufacturer or distributor the right to acquire at fair market value, or the right to compel us to sell, the automotive stores franchised by that manufacturer or distributor under specified circumstances in the event of a change in control of our company (generally including certain material changes in the composition of our board of directors during a specified time period, the acquisition of 20% or more of the voting stock of our company by another vehicle manufacturer or distributor, or the acquisition of 50% or more of our voting stock by a person, entity, or group not affiliated with a vehicle manufacturer or distributor) or other extraordinary corporate transactions such as a merger or sale of all of our assets. In addition, we have granted certain manufacturers the right to acquire, at fair market value, our automotive dealerships franchised by that manufacturer in specified circumstances in the event of our default under the indenture for our $300 million aggregate principal amount of floating rate senior unsecured notes due 2013 and $300 million aggregate principal amount of 7% senior unsecured notes due 2014 (collectively referred to herein as the “senior unsecured notes”) or the amended credit agreement for our revolving credit facility and term loan facility.

We operate each of our new vehicle stores under a franchise agreement with a vehicle manufacturer or distributor. The franchise agreements grant the franchised automotive store a non-exclusive right to sell the manufacturer or distributor’s brand of vehicles and offer related parts and service within a specified market area. These franchise agreements grant our stores the right to use the manufacturer or distributor’s trademarks in connection with their operations, and they also impose numerous operational requirements and restrictions relating to inventory levels, working capital levels, the sales process, marketing and branding, showroom and service facilities and signage, personnel, changes in management, and monthly financial reporting, among other things. The contractual terms of our stores’ franchise agreements provide for various durations, ranging from one year to no expiration date, and in certain cases manufacturers have undertaken to renew such franchises upon expiration so long as the store is in compliance with the terms of the agreement. We generally expect our franchise agreements to survive for the foreseeable future and, when the agreements do not have indefinite terms, anticipate routine renewals of the agreements without substantial cost or modification. Our stores’ franchise agreements provide for termination of the agreement by the manufacturer or non-renewal for a variety of causes (including performance deficiencies in such areas as sales volume, sales effectiveness, and customer satisfaction). However, in general, the states in which we operate have automotive dealership franchise laws that provide that, notwithstanding the terms of any franchise agreement, it is unlawful for a manufacturer to terminate or not renew a franchise unless “good cause” exists. It generally is difficult for a manufacturer to terminate, or not renew, a franchise under these laws, which were designed to protect dealers. In addition, in our experience and historically in the automotive retail industry, dealership franchise agreements are rarely involuntarily terminated or not renewed by the manufacturer. From time to time, certain manufacturers assert sales and customer satisfaction performance deficiencies under the terms of our framework and franchise agreements. We generally work with these manufacturers to address the asserted performance issues. For additional information, please refer to the risk factor captioned “We are subject to restrictions imposed by, and significant influence from, vehicle manufacturers that may adversely impact our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, and prospects, including our ability to acquire additional stores” in the “Risk Factors” section of this document.

Regulations

Automotive and Other Laws and Regulations

We operate in a highly regulated industry. A number of state and federal laws and regulations affect our business. In every state in which we operate, we must obtain various licenses in order to operate our businesses, including dealer, sales and finance, and insurance licenses issued by state regulatory authorities. Numerous laws and regulations govern our conduct of business, including those relating to our sales, operations, financing, insurance, advertising, and employment practices. These laws and regulations include state franchise laws and regulations, consumer protection laws, privacy laws, escheatment laws, anti-money laundering laws, and other extensive laws and regulations applicable to new and used motor vehicle dealers, as well as a variety of other laws and regulations. These laws also include federal and state wage-hour, anti-discrimination, and other employment practices laws.

Our financing activities with customers are subject to federal truth-in-lending, consumer leasing, and equal credit opportunity laws and regulations as well as state and local motor vehicle finance laws, leasing laws, installment finance laws, usury laws, and other installment sales and leasing laws and regulations, some of which regulate finance and other fees and charges that may be imposed or received in connection with motor vehicle retail installment sales and leasing. Claims arising out of actual or alleged violations of law may be asserted against us or our stores by individuals, a class of individuals, or governmental entities and may expose us to significant damages or other penalties, including revocation or suspension of our licenses to conduct store operations and fines.

Our operations are subject to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards promulgated by the United States Department of Transportation, and the rules and regulations of various state motor vehicle regulatory agencies. The imported automobiles we purchase are subject to United States customs duties and, in the ordinary course of our business we may, from time to time, be subject to claims for duties, penalties, liquidated damages, or other charges.

Environmental, Health, and Safety Laws and Regulations

Our operations involve the use, handling, storage, and contracting for recycling and/or disposal of materials such as motor oil and filters, transmission fluids, antifreeze, refrigerants, paints, thinners, batteries, cleaning products, lubricants, degreasing agents, tires, and fuel. Consequently, our business is subject to a complex variety of federal, state, and local requirements that regulate the environment and public health and safety.

Most of our stores utilize aboveground storage tanks, and to a lesser extent underground storage tanks, primarily for petroleum-based products. Storage tanks are subject to periodic testing, containment, upgrading, and removal under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and its state law counterparts. Clean-up or other remedial action may be necessary in the event of leaks or other discharges from storage tanks or other sources. In addition, water quality protection programs under the federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act), the Safe Drinking Water Act, and comparable state and local programs govern certain discharges from some of our operations. Similarly, certain air emissions from operations, such as auto body painting, may be subject to the federal Clean Air Act and related state and local laws. Certain health and safety standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor and related state agencies also apply.

Some of our stores are parties to proceedings under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, typically in connection with materials that were sent to former recycling, treatment, and/or disposal facilities owned and operated by independent businesses. The remediation or clean-up of facilities where the release of a regulated hazardous substance occurred is required under CERCLA and other laws.

We incur significant costs to comply with applicable environmental, health, and safety laws and regulations in the ordinary course of our business. We do not anticipate, however, that the costs of such compliance will have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, or financial condition, although such outcome is possible given the nature of our operations and the extensive environmental, public health, and safety regulatory framework. We do not have any material known environmental commitments or contingencies.

Competition

We operate in a highly competitive industry. We believe that the principal competitive factors in the automotive retailing business are location, service, price, and selection. Each of our markets includes a large number of well-capitalized competitors that have extensive automobile store managerial experience and strong retail locations and facilities. According to the National Automotive Dealers Association, Manheim Auctions, and reports of various industry analysts, the automotive retail industry is served by approximately 21,200 franchised automotive dealerships and approximately 43,000 independent used vehicle dealers. We face competition from several other public companies that operate numerous automotive retail stores on a national or regional basis and from private market buyers and sellers of used vehicles. We are subject to competition from dealers that sell the same brands of new vehicles that we sell and from dealers that sell other brands of new vehicles that we do not represent in a particular market. Our new vehicle store competitors have franchise agreements with the various vehicle manufacturers and, as such, generally have access to new vehicles on the same terms as us. Additionally, we compete with other dealers for qualified employees, particularly for general managers and sales and service personnel.

In general, the vehicle manufacturers have designated specific marketing and sales areas within which only one dealer of a given vehicle brand may operate. Under most of our framework agreements with the vehicle manufacturers, our ability to acquire multiple dealers of a given brand within a particular market is limited. We are also restricted by various state franchise laws from relocating our stores or establishing new stores of a particular brand within any area that is served by another dealer of the same brand, and we generally need the manufacturer to approve the relocation or grant a new franchise in order to relocate or establish a store. However, to the extent that a market has multiple dealers of a particular brand, as most of our key markets do with respect to most vehicle brands we sell, we are subject to significant intra-brand competition.

We also are subject to competition from independent automobile service shops and service center chains. We believe that the principal competitive factors in the service and repair industry are price, location, the use of factory-approved replacement parts, expertise with the particular vehicle lines, and customer service. In addition to competition for vehicle sales and service, we face competition from a broad range of financial institutions in our finance and insurance and aftermarket products businesses. We believe the principal competitive factors in these businesses are product selection, convenience, price, contract terms, and the ability to finance vehicle protection and aftermarket products.

COMPENSATION

Each of our non-employee directors receives the following annual fees for service on our Board of Directors:


• $25,000, plus $1,000 for each Board meeting attended in excess of four annually (the annual fee payable to our directors is prorated based on the number of months served during the year);
• $1,000 for each committee meeting attended;
• The Chair of our Audit Committee also receives an annual fee of $10,000 in recognition of the additional time commitment and responsibilities associated with this service;
• Our directors also are entitled to receipt of an annual vehicle allowance of $22,500 to purchase or lease a Company vehicle in accordance with our Director Vehicle Allowance Program; and
• Expense reimbursement in connection with Board and committee meeting attendance.

Additionally, our AutoNation, Inc. 2007 Non-Employee Director Stock Option Plan (the “2007 Non-Employee Director Plan”) provides for an initial grant of options to purchase 50,000 shares of our stock immediately upon the appointment of a non-employee director to our Board. The 2007 Non-Employee Director Plan also provides for an annual grant of options to purchase 20,000 shares of our common stock at the beginning of each fiscal year to each non-employee director serving on the Board at such date. Unless otherwise provided, all options granted under the 2007 Non-Employee Director Plan are fully vested and immediately exercisable. Under the 2007 Non-Employee Director Plan, each grant of options to a non-employee director remains exercisable for a term of ten years from the grant date so long as the director remains a member of the Board. The options are exercisable at a price per share equal to the closing price per share of our stock on the NYSE on the date immediately prior to the grant date.

On May 9, 2007, following stockholder approval of the 2007 Non-Employee Director Plan, each non-employee director received his or her annual grant of an option to purchase 20,000 shares of our common stock. Each of Messrs. Grusky and Migoya also received, on May 9, 2007, an additional option to purchase 3,384 shares of our common stock (although each of them were entitled to receive an option to purchase 50,000 shares of our common stock on the date of their appointment to the Board (June 22, 2006), each of them received an option to purchase 46,616 shares of our common stock, since only 93,233 shares remained available for grant at the time of their appointment under our prior non-employee director stock option plan). Ms. Goodman also received, on May 9, 2007, an additional option to purchase 50,000 shares of our common stock (although Ms. Goodman was entitled to receive an option to purchase 50,000 shares of our common stock on the date of her appointment to the Board (February 5, 2007), she did not receive any options, since an insufficient number of shares remained available for grant at the time of her appointment under our prior non-employee director stock option plan). Each option granted on May 9, 2007 discussed above has an exercise price of $20.78 per share.

(1) As of December 31, 2007, each of our non-employee directors held the following number of options: Robert J. Brown – 62,157; Rick L. Burdick – 186,471; William C. Crowley – 150,000; Kim C. Goodman – 70,000; Robert R. Grusky – 70,000; Carlos A. Migoya – 70,000.


(2) Represents amount provided in accordance with Director Vehicle Allowance Program.

(3) The grant date fair value of this option award is $8.24 per share calculated in accordance with FAS 123R.

(4) Ms. Goodman was appointed to the Board on February 5, 2007.

(5) Vehicle allowance prorated based on appointment to Board in February.

(6) Mr. Lampert retired from the Board on May 8, 2007. Fees were prorated based on months served.

(7) Ms. Rosenfeld retired from the Board on May 8, 2007. Fees were prorated based on months served.

MANAGEMENT DISCUSSION FROM LATEST 10K

Overview

AutoNation, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is the largest automotive retailer in the United States. As of December 31, 2007, we owned and operated 322 new vehicle franchises from 244 dealerships located in major metropolitan markets, predominantly in the Sunbelt region of the United States. Our stores, which we believe include some of the most recognizable and well known in our key markets, sell 38 different brands of new vehicles. The core brands of vehicles that we sell, representing approximately 96% of the new vehicles that we sold in 2007, are manufactured by Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Chrysler, Daimler, and BMW.

We operate in a single operating and reporting segment, automotive retailing. We offer a diversified range of automotive products and services, including new vehicles, used vehicles, vehicle maintenance and repair services, vehicle parts, extended service contracts, vehicle protection products, and other aftermarket products. We also arrange financing for vehicle purchases through third-party finance sources. We believe that the significant scale of our operations and the quality of our managerial talent allow us to achieve efficiencies in our key markets by, among other things, leveraging our market brands and advertising, improving asset management, implementing standardized processes, and increasing productivity across all of our stores.

For the year ended December 31, 2007, new vehicle sales account for approximately 58% of our total revenue, but approximately 25% of our total gross margin. Our parts and service and finance and insurance operations, while comprising approximately 18% of total revenue, contribute approximately 61% of our gross margin. We believe that many factors affect sales of new vehicles and retailers’ gross profit margins in the United States and in our particular geographic markets, including the economy, inflation, recession or economic slowdown, consumer confidence, housing markets, fuel prices, credit availability, the level of manufacturers’ production capacity, manufacturer incentives (and consumers’ reaction to such offers), intense industry competition, interest rates, the prospects of war, other international conflicts or terrorist attacks, severe weather conditions, the level of personal discretionary spending, product quality, affordability and innovation, employment/unemployment rates, the number of consumers whose vehicle leases are expiring, and the length of consumer loans on existing vehicles. Changes in interest rates could significantly impact industry new vehicle sales and vehicle affordability, due to the direct relationship between interest rates and monthly loan payments, a critical factor for many vehicle buyers, and the impact interest rates can have on customers’ borrowing capacity and disposable income. Sales of certain new vehicles, particularly larger trucks and sports utility vehicles that historically have provided us with higher gross margins, also are impacted by fuel prices.

The automotive retail environment was challenging in 2007, especially in California and Florida, where the housing markets experienced a significant decline. For 2008, we anticipate that the automotive retail market will remain challenging and that full-year industry new vehicle sales will decline from the low-16 million unit level in 2007 to the mid-15 million unit level. However, actual sales may materially differ.

We had net income from continuing operations of $288.0 million in 2007 and $330.8 million in 2006 and diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $1.44 in 2007 and 2006. The 2007 results included favorable tax adjustments of $12.0 million, or $.06 per share. The 2006 results included pre-tax charges of $34.5 million, or $.09 per share, for the debt tender premium and other financing costs relating to our April 2006 recapitalization.

Our Board of Directors authorized a $500.0 million share repurchase program in April 2007 and an additional $250.0 million share repurchase program in October 2007. We repurchased 33.2 million shares of our common stock for an aggregate purchase price of $645.7 million (average purchase price per share of $19.43) during the year ended December 31, 2007. Future share repurchases are subject to limitations contained in the indenture relating to our senior unsecured notes. As of January 1, 2008, we had approximately $30 million available for share repurchases and other restricted payments that are subject to these limitations. This amount will increase in future periods by 50% of our cumulative consolidated net income (as defined in the indenture), the net proceeds of stock option exercises, and certain other items, and decrease by the amount of future share repurchases and other restricted payments subject to these limitations. For further information, see “Liquidity and Capital Resources” and Note 7, Notes Payable and Long-Term Debt, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. During 2007, 6.8 million shares of our common stock were issued upon exercise of stock options, resulting in proceeds of $96.6 million (average price per share of $14.12).

We had a loss from discontinued operations totaling $9.3 million in 2007 and $13.9 million in 2006, net of income taxes. Certain amounts reflected in the accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2006, and 2005, have been adjusted to reclassify as discontinued operations the results of stores that were sold, that we have entered into an agreement to sell, or for which we otherwise deem a proposed sales transaction to be probable with no material changes expected.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

We prepare our Consolidated Financial Statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, which require us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements, and the reported amounts of revenue and expenses during the reporting period. We evaluate our estimates on an ongoing basis and we base our estimates on historical experience and various other assumptions we believe to be reasonable. Actual outcomes could differ materially from those estimates in a manner that could have a material effect on our Consolidated Financial Statements. Set forth below are the policies and estimates that we have identified as critical to our business operations and an understanding of our results of operations, based on the high degree of judgment or complexity in their application.

Goodwill, Other Intangible Assets, and Long-Lived Assets — Goodwill, other intangible assets, and long-lived assets are significant components of our Consolidated Balance Sheets. Our policies regarding the valuation of intangible assets affect the amount of future amortization and possible impairment charges we may incur.

Goodwill consists of the cost of acquired businesses in excess of the fair value of net assets acquired, using the purchase method of accounting. Acquired intangible assets are separately recognized if the benefit of the intangible asset is obtained through contractual or other legal rights, or if the intangible asset can be sold, transferred, licensed, rented, or exchanged, regardless of our intent to do so. Our principal identifiable intangible assets are rights under franchise agreements with vehicle manufacturers. We generally expect our franchise agreements to survive for the foreseeable future, and, when the agreements do not have indefinite terms, anticipate routine renewals of the agreements without substantial cost. We believe that our franchise agreements will contribute to cash flows for the foreseeable future and have indefinite lives.

Goodwill and franchise rights assets are tested for impairment annually at June 30 or more frequently when events or circumstances indicate that impairment may have occurred. We are subject to financial statement risk to the extent that goodwill, franchise rights assets, or other intangible assets become impaired due to decreases in the fair value of the related underlying business.

The risk of goodwill and franchise rights impairment losses may increase to the extent that our market capitalization and earnings decline. A sustained decrease in our market capitalization, or a negative long-term performance outlook, could cause the carrying value of our reporting unit to exceed its fair value, which may result in an impairment loss. Impairment losses could have an adverse impact on our ability to satisfy the financial ratios or other covenants under our debt agreements and could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations and financial condition.

We estimate the depreciable lives of our property, plant, and equipment, including leasehold improvements, and review them for impairment when events or circumstances indicate that their carrying amounts may be impaired. We periodically evaluate the carrying value of assets held for sale to determine if, based on market conditions, the values of these assets should be adjusted. Although we believe our property, plant, and equipment and assets held for sale are appropriately valued, the assumptions and estimates used may change and we may be required to record impairment charges to reduce the value of these assets.

Revenue Recognition/Reserves for Finance and Insurance Chargebacks — Revenue consists of the sales of new and used vehicles, commissions from related finance and insurance products, sales of parts and services, and sales of other products. We recognize revenue in the period in which products are sold or services are provided. We recognize vehicle and finance and insurance revenue when a sales contract has been executed, the vehicle has been delivered, and payment has been received or financing has been arranged. Rebates, holdbacks, floorplan assistance, and certain other dealer credits received from manufacturers are recorded as a reduction of the cost of the vehicle and recognized into income upon the sale of the vehicle or when earned under a specific manufacturer program, whichever is later.

Revenue on finance and insurance products represents commissions earned by us for: (i) loans and leases placed with financial institutions in connection with customer vehicle purchases financed and (ii) vehicle protection products sold. We primarily sell these products on a straight commission basis; however we also participate in future underwriting profit on certain extended service contracts pursuant to retrospective commission arrangements, which are recognized as earned.

We may be charged back for unearned financing, insurance, or vehicle protection product commissions in the event of early termination of the contracts by customers (“chargebacks”). Revenues from these fees are recorded at the time of the sale of the vehicles net of an estimated liability for chargebacks. Our estimate of chargebacks is based primarily on our historical chargeback experience, and is influenced by increases or decreases in early termination rates resulting from cancellation of vehicle protection products, defaults, refinancings and payoffs before maturity, and other factors.

Income Taxes — Accounting for our income taxes requires significant judgment in the evaluation of our uncertain tax positions and in the calculation of our provision for income taxes. Effective January 1, 2007, we adopted Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Financial Interpretation No. 48, Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes-an interpretation of FASB Statement No. 109 (“FIN 48”). FIN 48 contains a two-step approach to recognizing and measuring uncertain tax positions. The first step is to evaluate available evidence to determine if it appears more likely than not that an uncertain tax position will be sustained on an audit by a taxing authority, based solely on the technical merits of the tax position. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount that is more than 50% likely of being realized upon settling the uncertain tax position.

Although we believe we have adequately reserved for our uncertain tax positions, the ultimate outcome of these tax matters may differ from our expectations. We adjust our reserves in light of changing facts and circumstances, such as the completion of a tax audit, expiration of a statute of limitations, the refinement of an estimate, and interest accruals associated with uncertain tax positions until they are resolved. To the extent that the final tax outcome of these matters is different than the amounts recorded, such differences will impact the provision for income taxes in the period in which such determination is made.

Our future effective tax rates could be affected by changes in our deferred tax assets or liabilities, the valuation of our uncertain tax positions, or by changes in tax laws, regulations, accounting principles, or interpretations thereof.

Other — Additionally, significant estimates have been made by us in the accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements including allowances for doubtful accounts, accruals related to self-insurance programs, certain legal proceedings, estimated losses from disposals of discontinued operations, and certain assumptions related to determining stock option compensation.

SHARE THIS PAGE:  Add to Delicious Delicious  Share    Bookmark and Share



 
Icon Legend Permissions Topic Options
You can comment on this topic
Print Topic

Email Topic

981 Views