AutoNation says Liebert to replace veteran Mike Jackson as CEO

Feb 22 (Reuters) - AutoNation Inc, the largest U.S. auto retail chain, said on Friday Carl Liebert will succeed longtime Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson.

Jackson said last September that he will step down as CEO and will stay on as executive chairman of the board until 2021.

Liebert is currently the chief operating officer at financial services company USAA and will assume charge on March 11. He has served as executive vice president-stores at home improvement chain Home Depot Inc, where he was responsible for international sales, strategy, execution and operations.

The change of guard comes against the backdrop of a likely drop in sales of new vehicles in the United States this year as higher interest rates and rising prices prompt customers to delay their buying plans.

AutoNation has said it plans to limit investment in higher-margin service and used car operations to offset the squeeze on profits from new vehicle sales and cut overhead costs in 2019.

The company is looking to consolidate its regional structure from three regions to two and expects to save about $50 million annually.

Four senior AutoNation executives, including the chief operating officer, left the company as part of the restructuring in January.

The company's shares have more than tripled since Jackson became CEO in 1999 after the company's founder Wayne Huizenga hired him from Mercedes-Benz USA, where Jackson was president.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru and Joe White in Detroit; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)