Editors Note:

Nothing goes up forever and auto prices are plunging as consumers refuse to pay. Auto loan defaults are rising, repossessions are rising and credit criteria for a loan is rising as a result.


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AN - Autonation - Company Profile

AutoNation, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as an automotive retailer in the United States. The company operates in three segments: Domestic, Import, and Premium Luxury. It offers a range of automotive products and services, including new and used vehicles; and parts and services, such as automotive repair and maintenance services, and wholesale parts and collision services. The company also provides automotive finance and insurance products comprising vehicle services and other protection products, and arrangement of finance for vehicle purchases through third-party finance sources. As of December 31, 2016, it owned and operated 371 new vehicle franchises from 260 stores located primarily in metropolitan markets in the Sunbelt region of the United States. Company description from FinViz.com.

Autonation reported earnings of 95 cents that missed estimates by a penny. Revenue of $5.48 billion also missed estimates for $5.6 billion.

The company said demand for cars was falling while truck/SUV demand remained strong but under pressure. Gross profit margins on new vehicles fell from 5.6% to 5.2%. Used vehicle profits fell from 7.3% to 6.3%. The slowing demand for cars meant discounting was rising, which reduced another $100 per car from gains in the quarter. They see that pressure continuing in 2017.

Earnings May 5th.

Despite the positive economy, consumers are defaulting on the most car loans since the great recession. When interest rates were really low, banks and finance companies were giving auto loans to anyone with a pulse in order to write the higher interest loans. Now that the cars are 2-3 years old and people are tired of those cars, they are no longer making the payments. This puts more repossessed cars into the wholesale market and depresses prices.

Since more people are defaulting the credit criteria for a car loan has risen dramatically. Banks realized the error of their ways and they are making it harder to get approved. That reduces the number of people that can qualify for a loan and the number of people that can buy a car.

Auto prices have been on a permanent path higher but suddenly, very few people are willing to pay the outlandish prices for a car they will be underwater on the loan for the next five years.

This is causing strain on retailer profits. Shares of car dealers are in decline. Karmax (KMX) is widely expected to miss estimates when they report earnings on April 6th. By utilizing a put position on Autonation we can benefit from any disappointment by Karmax. Even if the dealers are not an apples and apples comparison, Autonation will be painted by the same broad brush that punishes Karmax.

Buy May $41 put, currently $1.40, no initial stop loss.