DETROIT --- Chrysler Group says the financial health of its dealers is improving.
CEO Sergio Marchionne, speaking during an earnings conference call, said that Chrysler's sales per dealership are gaining on those of rivals.
Numbers from the Automotive News Data Center bear him out. In 2010, Chrysler Group dealerships sold an average of 465 vehicles, up 40 percent from 2009.
For comparison, Ford Motor Co. dealerships sold an average of 554 vehicles, up 26 percent, while Toyota-Scion and Lexus dealerships sold an average of 1,216, down 1 percent.
Chrysler said its dealers added 700 sales and technical staff positions in the first quarter to handle the higher sales. The company's sales rose 23 percent in April, topping the industry average of 18 percent.
During its 2009 bankruptcy, Chrysler terminated 789 dealerships. More have since closed, and Chrysler says it has 2,317 dealerships.
The automaker has said since the terminations that it planned to add stores in poorly served markets, and that effort continues. Here are five cities where Chrysler opened dealerships in the first quarter, along with annual sales potential cited by Chrysler:
1. Des Plaines, Ill.,1,600 vehicles
2. Parma, Ohio, 1,500
3. Brooklyn, N.Y.,1,100
4. San Leandro, Calif., 1,200
5. Chattanooga, 900
Chrysler says 85 percent of its dealerships are operating profitably, up from 70 percent at the end of 2009.
During bankruptcy, Chrysler used low sales per dealer as one justification for terminating the 789 stores. But many rejected dealers disagreed, saying their sales and profits were good.