Do AutoNation results provide a flicker of hope for Detroit?

AutoNation Inc. (AN) posted a 32 percent profit decline to $34.6 million in the first-quarter, but the nation's biggest auto retailer maintained profitability despite the harsh environment in the auto sector.

AutoNation earned, excluding items, 23 cents per share. Revenue dropped 36 percent to $2.47 billion. The bottom line beat analyst estimates for earnings of 16 cents per share on $2.74 billion in revenue. And showing that it can be done, the massive online network of car dealers reduced debt by about $500 million in the quarter and exceeded its cost savings objective.