Two of Ford Motor Co.'s high-end import brands are among the biggest losers in Automotive News' annual tally of new-vehicle sales per U.S. dealership.
The average Jaguar dealership sold 174 cars last year, 94 fewer than in 2004. That was the largest drop of any brand. Volvo sold 350 vehicles per store in 2005, a decline of 49 units and the third-largest brand loss.
By contrast, Hummer nearly doubled its sales per store last year. The average Hummer dealership sold 337 trucks last year, compared with 177 in 2004. Hummer's new, heavily advertised H3 went on sale last year.
Toyota Division remained the leader among all brands, with 2005 sales of 1,613 cars and trucks per dealership, 149 more than the previous year. Those figures include sales of Scion vehicles.
Sales per dealership are a measure of a franchise's relative value. Major import brands generally have fewer outlets than domestic brands but tend to sell more vehicles per dealership.
Martin Bennett, owner of Thoroughbred Motorcars Inc. in Nashville, says Jaguar's plan to double U.S. sales, announced in 2000, caused dealers to pour money into new or expanded stores. That failed effort has left Jaguar dealers with too few sales as they scramble to cover costs, Bennett says.
'Thrown in the towel'
"Every Jaguar dealer in the country is experiencing the same thing," Bennett told Automotive News. "I know some dealers who have thrown in the towel. Jaguar is a strong brand name. The future looks excellent, but you have to get from here to there."
Don Beyer, chairman-elect of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, heads Volvo's dealer council.
Despite last year's dip in sales per store, he says, Volvo dealerships' profit per vehicle sold remained among the industry's highest.
Beyer, who owns Don Beyer Volvo in Falls Church, Va., calls 2006 a "muddle-through year" for the automaker. But he notes that several new vehicles are scheduled to arrive in Volvo showrooms in 2007.
"We're looking at good volume in the next two years," Beyer says.
Overall, U.S. dealerships averaged 769 vehicle sales last year, down 0.9 percent from 2004.
For the seventh straight year, Toyota Division, Lexus and Honda Division finished first through third in sales per dealership. Each of the three brands sold more than 1,200 vehicles per store last year. All increased those sales over 2004.
Toyota ramps up
Michael Koufakis, dealer principal of Star Toyota in Bayside, N.Y., says the dealership sold 2,751 new vehicles in 2005, up from 2,371 in 2004. He says Toyota has increased production and sales incentives.
"Bottom line is, Toyota has gotten more aggressive," Koufakis says.
Along with Jaguar and Volvo, Volks-wagen Division recorded especially large losses in sales per dealership in 2005. The average VW store sold 368 vehicles last year, 52 fewer than in 2004.
Ford division was the only domestic brand to rank in the top 10. Ford sold 696 cars and light trucks per store in 2005, down 31 vehicles from the previous year.
Several General Motors brands - Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac and Buick - recorded double-digit declines in sales per dealership in 2005. GM wants more dealerships to sell GMC, Pontiac and Buick vehicles under the same roof.
George Sleister, general manager of Master Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Augusta, Ga., calls GM's plan to cluster the three brands "a good thing." He expresses optimism about Buick's prospects but says Pontiac needs help.
Two troubled second-tier Japanese automakers also recorded big losses in per-store sales last year.
The average Mitsubishi dealership sold 43 fewer vehicles in 2005 than in 2004.
The average Isuzu store sold 31 fewer vehicles.
Greg Migliore contributed to this report
You may e-mail Arlena Sawyers at [email protected]