FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — AutoNation Inc., the country’s largest dealer group, recorded a 15 percent increase in third-quarter profits from a year ago behind rebounding new-vehicle sales and a record-setting performance by the group’s F&I operations.

The dealer group earned $81.6 million in the third quarter, up from 70.7 million a year ago. AutoNation also reported revenue of $3.93 billion, up 12 percent from a year ago. Revenue was also up for all major business sectors, including F&I.

“We're pleased with our performance in what continues to be an improving auto retail environment,” Michael E. Maroone, AutoNation president and COO, said during the group’s quarterly investor call. “In the third quarter, we delivered growth in revenue and gross profit for all sectors of our business: new and used vehicles, customer care and finance and insurance, as well as record finance and insurance gross profit for vehicle retail, strong operating margin of 4.2 percent and record third quarter earnings per share.”

The group’s F&I operations delivered a record same-store gross profit per vehicle of $1,290, up 6 percent from a year ago. Total F&I profit grew by $25 million, or 20 percent, to $147 million.

The big news was the jump in new-vehicle revenue, which rose $357 million, or 19 percent, to $2.2 billion. Revenue per vehicle retailed, however, fell to $32,800, down $618, or two percent, from a year ago.

For the first nine months of 2012, the company reported adjusted net income from continuing operations of $237 million, compared to $214 million a year ago. The company’s revenue for the same period totaled $11.5 billion, up 13 percent from the same period last year.

Additionally, income from domestic sales rose from $47 million a year ago to $52 million, with sales rising 9 percent. Income from import sales rose from $61 million a year ago to $69 million. Third-quarter import sales were up 35 percent from last year. Income from premium luxury sales rose from $53 million to $63 million, with unit sales up 11 percent.

"We continued to see a strong new-vehicle selling environment in the third quarter, reflected in a seasonally adjusted U.S. industry annual selling rate of 14.5 million units,” said Mike Jackson, the group’s chairman and CEO. “We are expecting industry new vehicle sales to be mid-14 million units in 2012."