AutoNation profit surges as chip shortage drives vehicle prices higher

April 20 (Reuters) - AutoNation Inc on Tuesday posted quarterly adjusted profit that almost tripled from last year as the U.S. auto retailer benefited from higher earnings per vehicle, helped by a global chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and driven up prices.

Low interest rates and consumers’ preference for private vehicles over public transportation has been aiding demand at U.S. auto dealers during the COVID-19 pandemic, while a semiconductor chip shortage has created a supply crunch.

“Demand continues to exceed supply for new vehicles, and we expect this to continue throughout 2021, in part due to the production disruption,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson said.

AutoNation’s gross profit per new vehicle at stores that have stayed open for at least a year jumped 61% to $2,739 in the first quarter from a year earlier. The company’s gross profit per used vehicle rose 17% to $1,744.

Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation’s quarterly adjusted net income from continuing operations rose 183.7% to $233.8 million, or $2.79 share, in the first quarter, compared with $82.4 million, or 91 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 26.5% to $5.90 billion. The company said it had $2.1 billion of liquidity as of March 31. (Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)