NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Shares of auto retailers climbed on Wednesday after Group 1 Automotive Inc. said it expects to report better-than-expected third-quarter earnings, helped by the government's Cash for Clunkers program.

The dealership chain said late Tuesday it expects to report earnings between 68 cents and 72 cents per share, excluding one-time items, citing "substantial" new vehicle sales spurred by clunkers.

The program, which ran in July and August, offered consumers a rebate for trading in old vehicles in exchange for new, fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

At the time, analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters estimated Group 1 would earn 51 cents per share, excluding items, in the third quarter. The company is scheduled to report earnings Oct. 27.

Group 1's shares were up $1.48, or 5 percent, to $31.26 in afternoon trading.

Other automotive retailers rallied on Wednesday with the broader market. Asbury Automotive Group Inc. gained 91 cents, or 7 percent, to $14.13. Lithia Motors Inc. climbed 80 cents, or 7 percent, to $12.16.

Sonic Automotive Inc. rose 79 cents, or 7.1 percent, to $11.90. Penske Automotive Group Inc. rallied 71 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $16.17. AutoNation Inc. added $1.15, or 6.3 percent, to $19.44.

Carmax Inc. increased 58 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $21.29. America's Car-Mart Inc. gained 19 cents to $24.40.

Auto retailers have taken a hit this year amid the collapse in new vehicle sales. U.S. auto sales are down 30 percent during the first nine months of the year, according to Autodata Corp.

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