The biggest sales year in auto industry history also recorded the largest dealership decline since 1993, when the nation was climbing out of a recession.
The annual Automotive News census discloses that 21,674 dealerships were in business on Jan. 1, 2001, down 330, or 1.5 percent, from 22,004 on Jan. 1, 2000. As in past years, the Big 3 led the decline.
General Motors was down 164 dealerships; Ford Motor Co. was down 113; and the Chrysler group (Chrysler-Dodge-Plymouth-Jeep) was down 54. A change in the number of intercorporate duals - dealerships that handle the products of two or all three companies - reduced the net loss to 296.
The 2000 dealership decline of 330 was more than four and a half times the 1999 loss of 72. Import-badged exclusives declined 112, while import-only duals were up 78. Import-badged dealerships were down 34overall.
Bucking a trend
The annual Automotive News census gauges the well-being of the retail industry. Generally, fewer dealerships get out of the business during good sales years than during lean sales years.
While the 2000 census bucks that trend, GM, Ford and the Chrysler group have been working for years toward smaller, more efficient distribution networks.
On Jan. 1, 2001, GM had 7,831dealerships; Ford had 4,643; and the Chrysler group had 4,365, for a total of 16,839 U.S.-badged dealerships.
There were 5,005 dealerships selling only import-badged cars and light trucks on Jan. 1. Of that number, 4,028 were exclusives and 977 were duals.
An import-badged exclusive is a dealership that has sales and service facilities for a single import line. If the import-badged make has a separate showroom but shares its service department with another make, the dealership is a dual.
DaimlerChrysler's plans call for dropping Plymouth at the end of the 2001 model year. There were 2,920 Plymouth franchises at the beginning of this year, down 45 from the previous year.
The company had 1,664 four-pack dealerships - Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge-Jeep - on Jan.1, up from 1,617 a year earlier.
All figures refer to the net change in dealership totals.
The overall franchise total on Jan.1, 2001 was 47,351, up 115 from 47,236 on Jan. 1, 2000.
U.S. makes take hit
As a group, Korean nameplates gained the most franchises, a total of 353. Daewoo was the biggest gainer at 501, up from 215, an increase of 286; Hyundai was up 36; and Kia gained 31.
Also among the double-digit franchise gainers were Jeep, up 41; Mitsubishi, up 37; and Suzuki, up 59.
The biggest franchise losers were the U.S. makes. GM, Ford and the Chrysler group had a total of 36,390 franchises on Jan. 1, a decline of 334 from 36,724 a year earlier. GM was down 58; Ford Motor Co., was down 274; and the Chrysler group was down two. Besides the lame-duck Plymouth, five other U.S.-badged lines experienced double-digit declines: Mercury, down 140; Ford, 78; Lincoln, 56; Oldsmobile, 35; and Chevrolet, 25.
The only U.S.-badged brands besides Jeep to gain franchises were Saturn, up seven and Dodge, up five.
At the beginning of this year, 20,929 dealerships handled cars and nearly all of them handled light trucks, too. There were 745 exclusive light-truck outlets: Dodge, 1; GMC, 173; Isuzu, 19; Jeep, 466; and Land Rover, 86.
Automotive News estimates that 7,128 of GM's 7,831 dealerships handle cars and trucks. The car-only locations are Buick and Saturn exclusives.
Ford Motor Co.'s 4,643 dealerships and Chrysler group's 4,365 dealerships sell light trucks.
Among the import-badged brands, Land Rover is the only British brand that has a light truck. Neither the Swedish nor the Italian makes have a truck. Germany's Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen all have trucks.
Among the Korean makes, Hyundai entered the truck market last fall with the Santa Fe sport wagon.
Kia also has a truck; Daewoo does not. Every Japanese brand except Subaru has trucks; all but Isuzu have cars, too.