There's more proof that things are getting back to normal in automotive retailing. That is especially encouraging in the wake of the economic damage done to dealers and dealerships during the tragic automotive depression.
The National Automobile Dealers Association reports that in the first quarter of this year, the total number of dealerships in operation rose by 66, at least temporarily reversing a long trend in which the number of dealerships has steadily declined.
In just the past four years, more than 3,200 dealerships permanently closed their doors as a result of the fall-off in new-vehicle sales or being terminated during the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies.
The NADA Data study for 2012, which was released last week, reported that the estimated total number of people employed at U.S. franchised dealerships rose to 933,500 last year from 892,300 in 2010.
"NADA Data 2012" also showed that dealerships that during the downturn had relied on income from used-vehicle sales, fixed operations and the finance and insurance department are returning to a more normal business model, thanks to the upturn in new-vehicle sales.
Also on the road back to normalcy, GM says the vast majority of the 120 or so dealerships that were required to create fresh business plans and meet individual targets for 2011 to keep their franchises accomplished their objectives.
And Ford Motor Co. says the owners of roughly 99 percent of the 1,712 Mercury dealerships in business at the time of Ford's June 2010 Mercury announcement have signed termination agreements.
For the survivors, things are getting better.