Group 1 Automotive, Inc. (GPI)

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Group 1 Automotive Inc. (GPI)

Q3 2010 Earnings Call

October 26, 2010 10:00 am ET

Executives

Lance Parker - VP & Corporate Controller

Earl Hesterberg - President and Chief Executive Officer

John Rickel - SVP & CFO

Analysts

John Murphy - Bank of America

Rick Nelson - Stephens

Adi Oberoi - Goldman Sachs

Matt Nemer - Wells Fargo

Scott Stember - Sidoti & Company

Himanshu Patel - JPMorgan

Ravi Shanker - Morgan Stanley

Pat Archambault - Goldman Sachs

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Group 1 Automotive 2010 Third Quarter Financial Results Conference Call. Please be advised that this call is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Lance Parker, Group 1's Vice President and Corporate Controller. Please go ahead, Mr. Parker.

Lance Parker

Thank you, Lia. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's call. Before we begin, I would like to make some brief remarks about forward-looking statements and the use of non-GAAP financial measures. Except for historical information mentioned during the conference call, statements made by management of Group 1 Automotive are forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Forward-looking statements involve both known and unknown risks and uncertainties, which may cause the company's actual results in future periods to differ materially from forecasted results. Those risks include, but are not limited to, risks associated with pricing, volume, and the conditions of markets. Those and other risks are described in the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission over the last 12 months. Copies of these filings are available from both the SEC and the company.

In addition, certain non-GAAP financial measures as defined under SEC rules may be discussed on this call. As required by applicable SEC rules, the company provides reconciliations of any such non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures on its website. Participating on today's call are Earl Hesterberg, our President and Chief Executive Officer; John Rickel, our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and myself.

I will now hand the call over to Earl.

Earl Hesterberg

Thank you, Lance, and good morning, everyone. I am pleased to report that our results for the third quarter of 2010 were extremely positive in almost every area. Most noteworthy was the continuation of very powerful sales performance in almost every area of our business. This sales performance generated an overall revenue increase of more than 17% for the quarter, which continues to leverage the aggressive cost reduction actions our company took last year.

I am also pleased at our major balance sheet improvements throughout the first nine months of this year. Our current cash position is extremely strong for a company of our size. And our long-term debt to equity position is one of the best in our recent corporate history. John will provide more details during his presentation.

As I just mentioned, our sales performance remained strong in the third quarter. Retail used vehicle and parts and service performances were exceptional and well beyond our projections. In the current challenging economic conditions, many customers see more value in used vehicles.

We have been capitalizing on this trend as evidenced by our third quarter retail used vehicle revenue increase of 33.7%; 29% on a same-store basis. This substantial increase was driven by a 24% lift in retail used vehicle unit sales on a consolidated basis and 21% more unit sales on a same-store basis.

Although our new vehicle sales increase was not as impressive on a percentage basis, we must remember that the third quarter last year was inflated by the government's Cash for Clunkers program.

With that comparison in mind, industry retail sales actually decreased slightly during the third quarter whereas our new vehicle unit sales increased 2% on a same-store basis and 5.3% on a consolidated basis. After nine months in the calendar year, our new vehicle revenues are up 17.5% on a same-store basis.

The one area of our performance which is below our targets relates to vehicle sales margins. Both new and used vehicle retail margins are lower than we would like to see. New vehicle margins were 5.7% for the quarter, equivalent with second quarter levels, but down 100 basis points from last year's strong third quarter results.

Biggest factors currently affecting these margin levels are the overall competitiveness of the market and extremely low vehicle margins for several volume brands.

Our used vehicle retail margin of 9.1% was also a bit soft due to the continuing need to supplement our inventory with outside purchases as well as our focus on volume increases. We would anticipate retail vehicle margins to return to more normal levels as new vehicle sales rebound.

The strong new and used vehicle retail sales performance was complemented by a nice increase in our finance and insurance penetration to $1,037 per retail vehicle profit. This is an $83 per unit improvement from the same period last year and reflects significantly improved penetration rates for both financing and service contracts.

And perhaps the most impressive facet of our sales performance in the third quarter was our same-store parts and service growth of more than 7%. In a market where any year-over-year growth is a decent accomplishment given declining units in operation, we are very pleased with the performance of our operating teams in this key area of our business.

Additionally, our parts and service margins increased on both a year-over-year and sequential basis, coming in at 54.3%. This increase in parts and service sales was driven across all categories, including higher sales in customer pay, warranty, collision, and wholesale parts sales.

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