DULUTH, Ga. — Training on product presentations, improving its bottom-third performers and increased F&I product penetrations were the drivers of the $28 third-quarter increase in Asbury Automotive Group’s average F&I profit per vehicle retailed, the company announced last week.

For the quarter, the company’s PVR average was $1,362, while the group’s average revenue per vehicle retailed increased $52 to $1,382. Officials said 64% of the later average was made up of F&I product sales. The gains helped to offset some of the loss in frontend PVR, which dropped $46 to $3,126.

“Our stores produced excellent operating results despite new-vehicle margin pressure,” said Craig Monaghan, president and CEO of Asbury, during the group’s Oct. 21 third-quarter investor call. “We responded with higher volumes, improved F&I PVRs, incremental service opportunities and continued expense control.”

F&I revenue increased 17% from a year ago to $68.8 million. That total accounted for 4% of the group’s total revenues, which increased 14% from a year ago to $1.7 million. But the group’s F&I operations also represented 25% of the group’s third-quarter profit, which increased 11% to $272.2 million.

New-vehicle sales during the period increased 7.8% from a year ago to 26,230 units, while used-vehicle sales increased 1.8% to 19,649 units. New-vehicle revenue, which accounted for 56% of the group’s total third-quarter gross profit, was up 17%, while gross profit, which accounted for 19% of the group’s total, was up 6%.

Parts and service revenue, which accounted 11% of the group’s total third-quarter revenue, increased 13% to $190.6 million. Gross profit for the segment, which accounted 43% of the group’s total gross profit, increased 13% to $118.2%

“During the last four quarters, we’ve acquired dealerships representing over $400 million in annualized revenues, reduced our share count 15% and improved our operating margins,” said Monaghan. “Looking forward, we believe automotive sales will remain healthy.

To reduce its share count by 15%, the automotive group repurchased $104 million of its own common stock. This repurchasing, along with the rest of the company’s initiatives, has led to a 32% rise in adjusted earnings per share over last year. Last year the company saw adjusted EPS of $1.08. This year, that number jumped to a record $1.43 per diluted share.

Asbury’s standalone Q Auto stores, three used-car outlets that employ a one-touch sales and F&I process, continued to lag but slightly less than the previous quarter. The stores saw an EPS loss of $0.01 in the third quarter, a slight improvement over Q2’s loss of $0.02 EPS. “We continue to focus on our objective of achieving run rate profitability for Q,” Monaghan said.

“We are still learning,” he added. “We are experimenting with different things. As we reported, we had a one cent loss in the quarter. We think relative to the opportunity that we see there, that’s a small price to pay for what we will believe has a very, very serious upside potential, and we’ll be sticking with it.”