CORRECTION: An earlier version of the headline on this story inaccurately characterized AutoCanada’s first-quarter performance. The company posted a $4.1-million net loss in the first quarter of 2019.
AutoCanada posted a $4.1-million (all figures in CND) net loss in the first quarter of 2019 due in large part to rising operating costs in the United States.
During the same quarter of 2018, the company posted a net income os $4.8 million.
About a year ago, AutoCanada bought nine of the 10 stores in the Grossinger Auto Group of Chicago, establishing a presence in the U.S. auto retail market.
Total first-quarter revenue rose 19 percent to $739.4 million and gross profit jumped 16 percent to $126.7 million.
Operating expenses were $122.8 million, up 28 percent, or $27.0 million from the same period last year.
A large contributor to the increase in expenses was the addition of the U.S. operations, where first-quarter operating expenses totaled $21 million, the company, Canada’s largest publicly traded dealership group, said in a statement.
Operating expenses in the United States exceeded gross profit by $7.2 million. In addition, Canadian operating expenses include approximately $1.3 million of management transition costs.
“We have designed a go-forward plan for our U.S. operations focusing on reducing the operating expenses in our U.S. dealerships and optimizing our U.S. portfolio with a view to creating a sustainable platform in the U.S,” AutoCanada Executive Chair Paul Anthony said in a statement.
The retailer had 66 franchised dealerships, comprised of 27 brands, in eight provinces in Canada as well as the group in Illinois at the end of the first quarter.
Total new-vehicle sales, which included 1,511 U.S. retail sales, rose 20 percent to 8,002. Used-vehicle sales stood advanced 25 percent to 5,650 compared with the same quarter last year, and included 889 in the United States.
AutoCanada expressed concern about potentially higher interest rates and lower new- and used-vehicle sales.
“Higher rates will adversely impact borrowing expenses on variable interest rate debt such as vehicle floorplan financing, which would increase our costs,” the company said. “Monthly loan payments for new and used vehicles are also typically linked to market interest rates, meaning rising interest rates will likely make vehicle ownership less affordable at the same time as other household debt becomes more expensive.”
The auto industry is coming off several record-setting or near-record years sales in Canada and the U.S.
“The sale of new vehicles is beginning to trend downwards,” AutoCanada warned. “Over the last few months, there has been greater concern over the strength of the economy in both Canada and the United States. If these concerns materialize, the volume of vehicle sales could decrease more than analysts expect.”
Still, the company said it expects its business to grow “by making accretive acquisitions as opportunities may arise.”