Although most dealers still prefer to operate independently, one-third of the new-car dealers polled in a national survey say they are inclined to sell their dealerships.
Most dealers polled said that Ford Motor Co.'s sweeping retail plan in Indianapolis is not a sound idea and offers no benefit to dealers.
Consequently, only 6 percent of respondents said they would be willing to sell a dealership and become an employee in a new retailing venture run by a manufacturer or a company such as Republic Industries Inc. Twenty-seven percent are willing to sell their dealership outright.
Most still prefer to operate independently.
Dohring Co., of Glendale, Calif., surveyed 300 U.S. dealers representing 661 dealerships selling domestic, Asian and European makes. The poll was conducted by telephone May 27-29.
Although 30 percent of the dealers surveyed by Dohring acknowledge that dealership consolidation is the wave of the future, today's automobile retailers can find little, if any, benefit in the trend. Indeed, 65 percent of those polled said there was no benefit to dealers at all in proposals such as Ford's Indianapolis plan.
Ford wants to replace 20 Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in the Indianapolis market with five or six Ford points, two or three Lincoln-Mercury stores and five or six satellite service centers. A Ford-controlled corporation jointly owned by the company and dealers would oversee sales and service in the entire market.
Ford envisions some of the Indianapolis dealers becoming managers in its venture. But the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers who were polled by Dohring agreed with other respondents: Only 6 percent said they would be inclined to sell a store and work for the company that bought their dealerships.
The survey underscored the strong entrepreneurial nature of automotive retailing today. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents want to go it alone despite pressures from manufacturers and publicly held corporations to consolidate the nation's dealership base.
Among the findings:
Seventy-one percent of all dealers polled said Ford's Indianapolis plan is not a good idea. An identical 71 percent of Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers concurred.
Only 11 percent of all dealers surveyed described Ford's venture as a good idea. Even fewer Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers - 9 percent - liked the idea.
Nonetheless, 30 percent of all dealers - 33 percent of Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers - said Ford-type programs are the wave of the future.
Dealers find little to attract them to consolidation ventures.
Sixty-five percent of respondents - and 67 percent of Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers - said the new retailing programs offer dealers no benefits.
Seven percent of responding dealers - and 5 percent of Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers - said they would be attracted by the money from a buyout offer. And four percent of all respondents said the chance to retire was beneficial.
Few dealers want anything to do with proposals such as Ford's Indianapolis plan.
If they later became inclined to make such an arrangement, the surveyed dealers said they would be more likely to try to cut a deal with a manufacturer than a publicly held corporation. But Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers are slightly more inclined to favor a company such as Republic Industries over Ford Motor Co.
Thirty-two percent of all dealers in the Dohring poll said they would rather work out a deal with a manufacturer, compared to 26 percent of Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers. Twenty-seven percent of both groups polled prefer to deal with a publicly held corporation.
But the bottom line is that most dealers say they want to be left alone.