AutoNation Names Cheryl Miller as C.E.O., Its Second New Boss This Year


AutoNation, the country’s largest chain of car dealerships, on Monday named a new chief executive, just months after hiring a replacement for its longtime leader.

Cheryl Miller, who had been the company’s chief financial officer, becomes chief executive and president, effective immediately.

She replaces Carl Liebert, who had joined AutoNation in March as chief executive and president from a financial services company. Mr. Liebert and the AutoNation board mutually agreed he would leave to pursue other interests, AutoNation said in a statement.

“We always knew it would be hard for an outsider to come into AutoNation,” Mike Jackson, the company’s chairman, said in an interview. “Quite frankly, it was not a good fit.”

The change is an abrupt shift for a company that had stable management for 20 years. Mr. Jackson had run AutoNation from 1999 until early this year, and he turned the company into a consistent profit-maker. On Monday, AutoNation reported a 3 percent rise in second-quarter net income, to $101 million. The increase came despite a slowing of new-vehicle sales in the United States. Revenue declined slightly, to $5.3 billion.

“Our strategy remains unchanged,” Mr. Jackson said.

AutoNation shares closed at $41.95. The stock is up about 18 percent since the beginning of the year.

Under Mr. Jackson’s leadership, AutoNation had become an influential player in the auto industry. A decade ago, Mr. Jackson publicly criticized the Detroit automakers for producing more vehicles than consumers were willing to buy and offering profit-eating incentives. Those practices contributed to the collapse that sent General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy.

Ms. Miller, 47, is a graduate of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., and has spent 18 years in the auto retail sector. She joined AutoNation in 2009 and was named chief financial officer in 2014.

“I’ve spent the better part of 10 years working with Mike Jackson and we have a great collaborative relationship,” Ms. Miller said. “I’m very excited to continue it.”