Fiat Chrysler is in the midst of adding as many as 400 new U.S. dealerships even as its U.S. sales appear to have stalled, two dealers familiar with the plan and an FCA source said.
An FCA spokesman declined to comment. FCA has about 2,500 U.S. dealerships that sell Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.
In some markets, such as Houston, the expansion is already underway, one of the sources said. There, three new Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealerships are in various stages of opening. Houston is the fifth-largest metro area in the United States, with nearly 6.5 million people. FCA already had 14 dealers in the area before the current expansion.
Dealers said the added points are FCA’s attempt to win additional U.S. market share. But in some locations, the new points are within just a few miles of existing stores, they said.
The expansion comes at a particularly difficult time for FCA dealers.
After years of record dealer profits and growing sales, FCA sales in the U.S. have fallen since September, even as the broader market has stayed relatively stable. FCA lost 1.5 percentage points of market share in the fourth quarter of 2016 in North America, compared with a year earlier, dropping to 11.3 percent, according to its quarterly financial report this week.
FCA admitted in July 2016 that it had misreported its monthly sales reports. The automaker restated its monthly sales totals going back to 2011.
“They probably did need to add more stores, but they’re about five years too late,” said one U.S. metro dealer, who did not want to be identified. “The market is really tough and getting tougher.”