Shares of new and used car dealer AutoNation (NYSE:AN) have been hammered by the coronavirus outbreak, and the resulting drop in consumer spending, and the confinement of would-be car-shoppers to quarters via "stay-at-home" orders. Today, the next shoe dropped, when AutoNation announced that "Cheryl Miller, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Company [is taking] leave of absence for health reasons ... effective as of April 13, 2020."  

45 degree canted view of a full car lot with no shoppers in evidence

Image source: Getty Images.

AutoNation provided no further details on its CEO's request for medical leave, in particular not saying whether it is related to COVID-19, and has "declined to provide more details about the CEO's health," reports Reuters. The company stated that Executive Chairman of the Board Mike Jackson will fill in as Chief Executive Officer and President "until Ms. Miller returns."  

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, Miller first joined AutoNation in 2009, serving as Treasurer and Vice President Investor Relations, and was later promoted to Chief Financial Officer, a role she performed from January 2014 through most of July 2019. On July 22, 2019, she took over as CEO.

Analysts now forecast that when AutoNation's March earnings report comes out, it will show approximately a 9% decline in sales year over year, and profits down 14% -- $0.87 per share.  

Shares of AutoNation are down 3.5% in noonday trading after the announcement.