The nation's top 100 dealership groups sold more vehicles in 2001 than they did the year before, even though overall industry sales dropped.
Sales of new retail units for the top 100 rose 2.6 percent over 2000 levels, to 2,421,343. But a 14.9 percent decline in fleet sales for the top 100 limited their combined gain in retail and fleet volume to just 1,067 sales. Total U.S. industry sales last year fell 1.3 percent to 17.2 million units.
Still, Automotive News' annual ranking of the top 100 shows the growing clout of the biggest groups.
The top 100 accounted for a record 16.1 percent of the U.S. industry's light-vehicle sales, up from 15.9 percent in 2000. Last year's share nearly doubled the 8.5 percent total in 1996, when the trend toward dealership consolidation was taking hold.
The performance of the top 100 in 2001 came as no surprise to Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association. He said an increase in dealership acquisitions and the ability of the large groups to increase sales at existing stores helped the top groups.
"Dealership groups want to be thought of as one-stop shopping for all of the transportation needs of their customers," Taylor said.
The list includes data about retail and fleet sales. But the rankings are based on new retail sales. AutoNation Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., again tops the list by a wide margin, with a total of 454,000 new retail sales in 2001. UnitedAuto Group Inc. of Detroit, which jumped from No. 4 to No. 2, was next at 141,056.
AutoNation had 284 dealerships and 371 franchises at the end of last year. UnitedAuto had 84 dealerships and 127 franchises.