Tomorrow, auto parts retailer Advance Auto Parts (NYSE:AAP) will be rolling out its second-quarter earnings. Let's see if the company is expected to sputter or run like a finely tuned engine.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or waffle? Of the 18 analysts tracking Advance Auto, 10 recommend buying shares, while eight think investors should hold.
  • Revenue. On average, analysts expect sales to increase 7% to $1.2 billion.
  • Earnings. Profits are also expected to accelerate to $0.66 per share after topping out at $0.59 per share a year ago.

What management says:
Last quarter, management at Advance Auto was not pleased with the fact that it was just managing to inch forward. Shortly after, the company announced changes to its management. In addition to his other roles with the company, Elwyn Murray was appointed executive vice president, merchandising, supply chain, and technology. Executives felt the change was necessary to "... drive the implementation of our key growth initiatives" and "enhance our parts availability and coverage."

What management does:
A quick looks at margins shows why Advance Auto was looking to shake things up. Although gross margins have made consistent, if modest, gains, operating and net margins have had trouble gaining traction.

























All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
Management has not hidden its displeasure with Advance Auto Parts' recent performance and has been eager to make improvements. It has already made changes to its executive staff and has slowed its growth plans until it can generate stronger performance at existing locations.

In the meantime, it must also figure out how to proceed in a challenging environment and keep pace with competitors such as O'Reilly Automotive (NASDAQ:ORLY), which recently reported slow growth, and Pep Boys (NYSE:PBY), which has endured its own management changes. Even AutoZone (NYSE:AZO) has struggled to tune up its comps growth.

With several quarters of slow growth behind them, each of the major players is trying to jump-start its business. The result is a segment in transition. Whichever company can generate a spark the quickest will have a decent head start. Investors should have a better idea if Advance Auto is up to the challenge of taking the lead after it releases its second-quarter results.

For more on the winding road for auto parts retailers, read:

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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own any of the companies in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.