"We can stand alone" is the rallying cry of dealerships that sell import-badged cars and trucks, and those retailers are putting that slogan into action.
For the fourth year in a row, the number of solo outlets set a record. The year-end total in 2002 was 5,075, up 371 or 7.9 percent from 4,704 the year before.
It was the first time the number has topped 5,000. It exceeded 4,000 for the first time in 1999, just three years earlier.
Only two of the 27 import-badged brands tracked by Automotive News failed to show a gain. One was Volvo, and it was down only one store. The other was Rolls-Royce, which is reorganizing its distribution organization; its numbers cannot be compared with last year's.
The gain of 371 exclusive outlets occurred despite Daewoo's withdrawal from the U.S. market. Daewoo had 110 exclusive dealerships.
Why the big push for exclusive dealerships? The reasons are basic, and they don't change from year to year.
The first is showroom space. You don't have to share floor space with another make.
Closely aligned to that is sales staff attention. In a dual, the salespeople stress what's hot. In an exclusive, they sell your brand or they don't sell anything.
The Japanese have taken the exclusive dealership move to heart. They account for 3,580 of the 5,075 single-line stores. That is 70.5 percent, and it is right in line with Japan's 71.8 percent share of the import-badged cars and light trucks sold in this country.
Vehicles from other nations are far behind the Japanese in one-line dealerships. Germany has 688, followed by Korea at 336; Great Britain has 244, and Sweden, 227.
Toyota and Honda are in a two-team race for the most exclusives. A year ago, Toyota was seven ahead of Honda. Now, Toyota is two ahead. But a British make distributed by a German company has the highest percentage of one-liners. That's BMW's Mini. All 70 of its dealerships are solo stores.
In addition to Mini, five brands count 70 percent or more of their dealerships in the single-line column: Infiniti, Lexus, Honda, Acura and Mitsubishi. Land Rover, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz are in the 60 percent to 70 percent class.
A glance at sales in the luxury class indicates the value of exclusive dealerships.
After three months this year, BMW (186 exclusives) was the sales leader, followed by Lexus (155 exclusives) and Mercedes-Benz (203 exclusives). Cadillac and Lincoln were fourth and fifth in sales. Cadillac has 148 single-line dealerships; Lincoln has none. Cadillac and Lincoln have at least 1,000 more outlets than the three import-badged brands.