Publicly owned auto dealerships haven't taken Wall Street by storm, and they haven't taken the auto sales world by storm, either.
On Wall Street, stock prices of six of the 11 public groups are closer to their 52-week lows than to their 52-week highs, and two others are about midway between their yearlong highs and lows.
In the ultracompetitive new-vehicle sales market, the public groups are big, but by no means dominant. In fact, with the exception of AutoNation Inc., the public organizations don't really stand out from the privately held dealerships.
Six of the public chains are included in the Automotive News list of the top 100 dealership groups for 1998 (four are in the Top 10). The six sold about 650,000 new cars and trucks, fleet and retail, last year - 4.2 percent of total U.S. sales of 15.6 million.
One group - AutoNation - rang up nearly 70 percent of those sales, 448,000 of the 650,000.
The six public groups on the Automotive News list of 100 operated 392 dealerships last year. That's 1.8 percent of the 22,076 car and light-truck outlets in the United States. They held 629 franchises, which is 1.3 percent of the 46,882 dealer selling agreements in force in this country. AutoNation had 223 stores and 331 franchises.
Revenue of the six totaled $21.3 billion, a significant piece of change - but only 4.2 percent of the $508 billion that NADA calculates the nation's dealerships took in during 1997. AutoNation had $13.5 billion of the public groups' total.
Consolidation and public ownership have been big topics in the retail auto industry in recent years. Those trends probably will increase. But with nearly 96 percent of the unit sales and 96 percent of the revenue, there is no reason for the independent owners and operators of dealerships to head for the hills.