DETROIT -- The average number of unit sales per U.S. dealership will continue to rise this year, driving dealership profitability higher, before leveling off next year, a new report says.
Throughput, which is the average number of sales per dealership, will rise 8 percent to a record 877 units in 2013 based on projected U.S. light-vehicle sales of 15.6 million, Urban Science, a global retail consulting firm in Detroit, predicted today, based on data in its 2013 midyear Automotive Franchise Activity Report.
The predicted rise would extend an unprecedented throughput increase to four straight years. In 2012, throughput rose 13 percent to 812, by Urban Science's count.
"While throughput levels are on track to crush last year's all-time high, we believe we're hitting the top of the curve," said John Frith, vice president, Urban Science, in a statement. "If we follow historical trends, throughput increases should slow in the next year or two before they start a mild decline."
Retail networks 'stable'
The forecast of 15.6 million sales in 2013 comes from LMC Automotive.
Frith said automakers are keeping their retail networks "stable even as sales continue to rise."
The midyear report shows a slight decline in the number of U.S. dealerships since the end of 2012. As of July 1, there were 17,780 dealerships, a 0.4 percent decrease from the 17,851 tallied six months earlier.
The number of franchises also slightly decreased. They fell 0.6 percent to 31,409 as of July 1.
The retail network stability creates "a tremendous opportunity for dealerships to reap the benefits of the industry's most profitable periods in two decades," Frith said.
The majority of dealership closures resulted from the loss of the Suzuki brand, which shut down 222 franchises, including 125 stand-alone dealerships, the report said. The rest of the network generally remained healthy and grew slightly since the beginning of the year.
N.J. down, Calif. up
At the state level, the most significant net dealership declines occurred in New Jersey, which lost eight dealerships, followed by Missouri and Pennsylvania which each lost seven dealerships, the report said.
California experienced the most significant dealership increase, gaining 20. Texas added four dealerships and Arkansas, Louisiana, Nevada and Tennessee added two each.