GM's dealer body count: The numbers go round and round ...

Chrissie Thompson covers General Motors for Automotive News
Mark Reuss said today that GM's U.S. dealerships will number about 4,500 at year's end.

I'm sure you remember that Reuss, GM's North American president, told The Associated Press in May that GM would have 5,000 stores after GM finished arbitrations and settlements with rejected dealers. So what gives?

GM spokesman Dave Roman told me today the difference between the two numbers is probably related to rounding.

"Rounding up or rounding down, he feels it's going to be closer to 4,500 than 5,000," Roman said. "From what I'm seeing in tracking it, it's very consistent. There's not been an extreme change in a mass amount of arbitrations."

GM's internal projections fluctuate based on arbitration results and dealers' abilities to meet GM's conditions for reinstatements. For instance, Reuss may have seen a projection for 4,800 dealers and rounded up in May; he may have recently seen an estimate of 4,600 dealers and rounded down today, Roman speculated.

GM may not know its final dealership count until at least August, Roman said. The automaker legally must finish all its arbitrations by July 14, but it often takes a couple of weeks for arbitrators to hand down their decisions, he said.

Whatever the final count, it will be consistent with estimates you've seen in Automotive News of between 4,500 and 5,000. That compares with the goal the automaker had during its bankruptcy of trimming its network to 3,600 stores, using both forced wind-downs and dealerships' going out of business.

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