Study finds fewer dealerships, higher sales per store
DETROIT -- Sales per U.S. dealership rose last year, as did the number of dealerships.
Despite U.S. light-vehicle sales that are still well below the 17.4 million industry peak in 2000, sales per dealership hit a record last year, a study by retail consulting firm Urban Science found.
"The dealers are selling more, they've become more efficient, and that's what's driving the profitability of the dealerships as well," said John Frith, vice president of retail channel solutions at Urban Science in Detroit.
Average new-vehicle sales per dealership, or throughput, in the United States rose 13 percent last year to a record 812 units. That echoed a 13 percent increase in U.S. light-vehicle sales, to 14.5 million.
The previous throughput record was set in 2005 at 784 units, Frith said. At that time, U.S. light-vehicle sales were about 17 million and the dealer count stood at 21,665, he said.
If 2013 auto sales reach 15 million, as several forecasts predict, average sales per dealership will climb to 839, Frith said. Sales per dealership are a key guide to dealerships' profitability.
The number of U.S. auto dealerships rose for the second straight year in 2012, but by less than 1 percent, to 17,851 as of Jan. 1, 2013. It was 17,767 a year earlier, Frith said. Last year's rise followed a 0.5 percent increase in 2011.
Those increases follow a 4 percent drop in 2010 and an 8 percent decline in 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler shed stores as part of their U.S.-steered bankruptcies. Before that, the dealership count had declined steadily for decades.
"In the past, a 2 percent dealership annual decline was considered normal," Frith said. "But barring unexpected economic changes, network growth of 0.1 to 0.2 percent will become the new benchmark."
Texas, California and Florida added the most new stores last year, with increases of 25, 24 and 11 dealerships, respectively.
Georgia led all states in losing dealerships in 2012, dropping 10, followed by Michigan, down nine.
Saab's demise resulted in 59 stand-alone stores closing. Frith said most of Georgia's dealership losses were a result of Saab's shutdown.
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