I realize I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but the question has to be asked: Are Warren Buffett and Eddie Lampert really all that? Lampert bought himself a sizeable stake in AutoNation (NYSE:AN) which missed earnings estimates last month with a 36% drop on the bottom line. Buffett's favorite used-car seller, CarMax (NYSE:KMX), won't report its own Q3 numbers for another couple of weeks. But it's missed estimates in each of the past four quarters, and analysts are looking for a near-80% drop in profits this time around.

In short, America's Car-Mart (NASDAQ:CRMT) is looking awfully good by comparison.

The downmarket retailer reported Q2 earnings Tuesday, and the stock's up more than 50% since. I'll give you three guesses whether investors liked what they saw:

  • Past-due accounts held steady at 3.8% of total loans.
  • Charge-offs of bad debt declined 50 basis points year over year.
  • Management seems to expect further improvement in this regard, as provision for future bad debts dropped 90 b.p.
  • Profits increased 13.8% (to $0.33 per share) on 5.5% sales growth, with 5.3% of that coming from same-store sales.
  • Management didn't deign to reveal its cash flow number, but did term it "strong," saying it was able to pay off $4.8 million in debt.

Who's down with OPC?
Meanwhile, as all of Detroit (and Detroit-like cities 'round the world) sinks into a malaise of dwindling new car sales, Car-Mart continues to grow its OPC (Other People's Cars) business. Ford (NYSE:F) sold 31% fewer jalopies in November 2008 than November 2007, Honda (NYSE:HMC) 32% less, and Toyota (NYSE:TM), 34%. General Motors' (NYSE:GM) sales are down 41%. But over at Car-Mart, things are going just swell.

Car-Mart grew unit sales an otherwise anemic 0.6% in Q2. Still, viewed side-by-side with the numbers coming out of Detroit, that looks like a relative blowout. CEO William Henderson says there's more good news where this came from: "Going forward, contrary to what other auto retailers are forecasting, we believe our sales will continue to increase."

If he's right, if he's not just blowing smoke, then this stock's single-digit P/E looks mighty attractive right about now.

Read along as Car-Mart digs itself out of the ditch it drove into:

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.