Last week, Tata said it will start selling the Nano small car here in a few years. Another Indian automaker, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., starts selling pickups late this year in the United States at about 330 dealerships already chosen.
A Chinese investor, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., said it plans to buy Hummer. And industry mogul Roger Penske plans to buy Saturn and stock the brand with vehicles from GM for now and from South Korea's Renault Samsung or other automakers later.
Meanwhile, dealers are enduring the worst recession in decades, lending is tight for dealerships and consumers, and established brands aren't adding points.
Nearly half of the 318 dealers and general managers surveyed last week in an unscientific Automotive News online poll want a new franchise. Of those losing a brand, 47 percent plan to replace it with another brand, 29 percent will sell used vehicles at the site, and only one in six plans to sell the property.
But many dealers will have to soldier on without new franchises.
"The weaker dealers do not have the wherewithal to get floorplan and everything else they need to replace the franchise," says Sheldon Sandler, CEO of Bel Air Partners, which advises dealer and broker sales.
Some are giving up.
"I'll sell the property and go sit on a beach, drink beer and fish," says a longtime Chevrolet dealer in Pennsylvania who asked not to be identified during his wind-down. "I sat on the Titanic, I watched it sink. Now it's time to swim away."
Veteran dealer Bob Alexander is losing his Chevrolet store in Kenedy, Texas, but will keep the adjacent Ford store and a separate used-car shop.
"If this sticks, I'll definitely look for something else," he says. "I don't give up easy."
Dealer broker Mark Johnson says canceled dealers are competing with others trying to replace revenue lost during the downturn.
"Dealers were saying, 'Used cars are the new franchise,' " he says. "Now they are saying, 'The new franchise is any franchise I can get in here to pay for my real estate.' "
One such dealer is Roger Skinner in upstate New York. He is safe with his Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ford store in Richfield Springs and a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury store about 10 miles away in Herkimer. But he wants another franchise if the price is right.
Skinner thinks Indian and Chinese automakers might repeat the growth curve of Korean brands. He wants to land a likely winner while it is affordable.