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Thursday February 8

Jackson Calls 2000 'Turnaround Year'for AutoNation; Reports Record Fourth Quarter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- AutoNation, Inc. has reported net income of $73.7 million, or $0.21 per share, for the three months ended December 31, 2000, versus a loss of $403.1 million, or a loss of $1.02 per share, for the same period in 1999. For the year ended December 31, 2000, the company reported net income of $329.9 million, or $0.91 per share, a 38 percent increase versus $0.66 per share in full-year 1999.

Results in the quarter include one-time items resulting in a net gain of $0.04 per share, after taxes. Excluding one-time items, AutoNation earned $0.17 per share or $61.2 million in the fourth quarter, versus $0.10 per share or $40.6 million from continuing operations last year. Last year's reported results included pre-tax charges of $478.5 million related primarily to the closure of AutoNation's used vehicle megastores. The company said that results in the fourth quarter 2000 benefited from improved operating efficiencies, reductions in corporate overhead and the Company's share repurchase program, partially offset by higher floor-plan interest.

Commenting on these fourth quarter results, AutoNation Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Jackson said, "We have reduced costs and improved operating efficiencies, generating a 50% improvement in net income from continuing operations and a 70% increase in earnings per share this quarter. This performance confirms the successful turnaround of AutoNation."

Revenue of $4.7 billion for the three months ended December 31, 2000, declined four percent versus the same period last year, excluding the impact of the Company's former used vehicle megastores. Revenue for the year ended December 31, 2000, increased seven percent to $20.6 billion compared with last year, excluding the impact of the used vehicle megastores. Mr. Jackson commented, "AutoNation delivered record operating income in the fourth quarter, despite the negative impact that a sudden downturn in auto sales had on revenue. This confirms that AutoNation is well positioned to perform in a challenging auto market."

Mr. Jackson noted that during the 12-month period, AutoNation generated more than $1.5 billion of vehicle sales via the Internet sales channel, making AutoNation the largest seller of vehicles online. He also said that in the 12-month period ended December 31, 2000, AutoNation generated $892 million of EBITDA. "We used our cash flow to repurchase 27.6 million shares during the year, to improve and upgrade many of our stores and to make acquisitions in selected markets," Mr. Jackson said.

Looking ahead to full-year 2001, Mr. Jackson said the automotive industry anticipates weaker demand for new vehicles, which AutoNation intends to offset by leveraging its used vehicle, parts and service and finance and insurance operations. "Even though new vehicle demand is expected to drop by about 10 percent, AutoNation's goal is to achieve earnings per share from continuing operations in the range of $0.85 to $0.90 per share. Our earnings estimate in the first quarter of 2001 is a range of $0.14 to $0.16 per share," Mr. Jackson said.

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