After four consecutive increases, the number of dealerships handling a single make of international-brand vehicles declined last year.
The total was 4,028 on Jan. 1 of this year, down 2.7 percent from 4,140 at the beginning of 2000, the annual Automotive News census shows.
The dip is by no means an indication that import-brand companies and dealers are becoming disenchanted with one-line outlets. The falloff was the result of major changes in the dealership organizations of two big players.
Mitsubishi said it had 55 solo stores on Jan. 1, 2001. A year ago, it said it had 279. Lexus reported it had 49 exclusives this year, down from 136 as 2000 began. But 14 makes said they increased their exclusive dealership counts last year. Six others (in addition to Mitsubishi and Lexus) reported dips, and five were unchanged.
Japanese top the list
In the Automotive News tabulation, an exclusive dealership is one that has a showroom and service facilities devoted to one import brand.
Daewoo was last year's biggest gainer, as it rose to 92 exclusives from 30 a year earlier. Nissan, up 39, was next. Other 20-plus advances were recorded by Kia, 27, and Volkswagen, 22. Japanese makes rule the exclusive dealership roost with 2,805 of the 4,028 establishments in operation.
Toyota, with 747, has the most exclusives, and Honda is close behind at 727. Third-place Nissan has 583 single-line outlets, and no other make has as many as 200.
Few reach 60 percent
Exclusive dealerships are high on the wish list of most international-brand executives, but wishing doesn't always make it so. The reasons for single-liners are: showroom space and sales staff attention.
In an exclusive outlet, that brand has 100 percent of the display space. And it has 100 percent of the staff's attention. They either sell that make, or they don't sell anything.
Even so, only seven of the 27 import brands sold in this country can count 60 percent or more of their dealerships in the exclusive column.
Honda is the leader with 73 percent, followed by Infiniti, Land Rover, Acura, Toyota, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz.