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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In a fourth quarter that saw that company's adjusted net income rise substantially, AutoNation said its new-vehicle sales performance sparked an 8-percent increase in quarterly revenue. 

Specifically, quarterly GAAP net income from continuing operations was $62 million, down from $73 million a year ago. 

However, officials explained that the fourth quarter of 2009 included a benefit from a tax adjustment of $13 million, while the year-ago period included a net benefit of $51 million related primarily to favorable tax items and gains on the repurchase of senior notes. 

When adjustments for these items were made, AutoNation's fourth-quarter 2009 adjusted net income from continuing operations was $50 million, up from an adjusted $23 million the previous year. 

Revenue totaled $2.8 billion during the last quarter of 2009. The figure marked an 8-percent increase from the year-ago period.

AutoNation attributed that revenue growth to stronger new-vehicle unit sales, which increased 7 percent.

Breaking it down by AutoNation's three new-vehicle operating segments, domestic unit sales jumped 6 percent while both import and luxury unit sales each climbed by 8 percent.

Meanwhile, the company said its used-vehicle sales dropped 3 percent year-over-year.

However, revenue generated from those used-vehicle sales still displayed positive gains. AutoNation's used-vehicle revenue rose 6 percent in the fourth quarter as compared to the same period of 2008.

Mike Jackson, AutoNation's chairman and chief executive officer, offered his commentary on the quarterly performance.

"We delivered solid profitability in the fourth quarter, achieved our first year-over-year increase in new vehicle unit sales since the second quarter of 2005 and maintained the benefits of our actions taken in response to the economic downturn," Jackson stated

"By lowering our structural costs and debt levels and more efficiently managing our inventory, we were able to deliver solid EPS growth in a very difficult environment," Jackson added.

AutoNation also shared its revenue total for full-year 2009, and with it came more positive news for the company.

Executives indicated that AutoNation posted GAAP net income from continuing operations of $234 million in 2009. They referenced that total by recounting how 2008 unfolded a net loss of $1.2 billion.

After adjusting for certain items — including the goodwill and franchise rights impairment charges recorded in the prior year — AutoNation said its adjusted net income from continuing operations for 2009 was $204 million

Executives also mentioned that 2009 full-year revenue for totaled $10.8 billion. That figure was down 20 compared to $13.4 billion in the prior year.

"We responded to the dramatic decline in industry volumes, the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, the credit crisis and staggering unemployment and delivered a full-year adjusted EPS increase of 14 percent," Jackson added.

"We are optimistic for the long-term prospects of the auto industry based on the successful restructuring of the domestic auto industry, the move to a demand-pull system and the rationalization of the dealer network," he went on to say.

"We agree with the view that volumes will be higher this year. Our planning assumption for 2010 industry new unit sales is 11.5 million units with a gradual increase in the selling rate over the course of the year," Jackson concluded.