Sonic Automotive Q4 profits beat expectations

Charlotte-based Sonic Automotive reported fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday that beat expectations but were lower than the same quarter in 2013 thanks in part to costs to open a chain of used car dealerships.

Sonic Automotive reported fourth quarter 2014 earnings of $32.5 million, or $0.63 per diluted share, beating analysts’ forecasts by 1 cent. For the fourth quarter of 2013, the company reported earnings of $35.6 million, or $0.67 per share.

Included in the company’s fourth quarter earnings were the pre-tax expenses of $7.1 million on a new chain of stand-alone used-car dealerships called EchoPark, which rolled out in Denver in November.

Also included was $3.8 million of expenses related to its One Sonic-One Experience initiative, a guest-service technology that aims to streamline the car-buying process. It was launched in Charlotte last year.

For the full 2014 year, Sonic reported earnings of $100 million, or $1.90 per share, compared with $108.4 million, or $2.03 per share, in 2013.

“I could not be more pleased with our team's performance in the fourth quarter and for the year,” said Jeff Dyke, Sonic's executive vice president of operations, in a statement. “We started 2014 with a huge calendar including launching both EchoPark and One Sonic-One Experience all in the fourth quarter of 2014.”

The Fortune 500 car dealer, one of the largest in the U.S., also reported fourth quarter revenue of $2.35 billion, missing the forecast of Bloomberg-surveyed analysts, who called for $2.45 billion.

In the fourth quarter, Sonic Automotive reported a record number of new and pre-owned vehicles sold -- 34,755 and 26,406, respectively. The company’s full-year 2014 new and pre-owned car sales also reached record highs of 135,932 and 110,113, respectively.

The company also announced a quarterly cash dividend of $0.025 per share payable for stockholders of record on March 13, 2015. The dividend will be payable on April 15.

Peralta: 704-358-5079;

Twitter: @katieperalta