The average number of new-vehicle sales per U.S. dealership rose 4.8 percent in 2015 to 966 units, the fourth consecutive annual record, a new study found.
Automotive consulting firm Urban Science’s annual Automotive Franchise Activity Report also found that last year was the sixth consecutive year of per-store sales growth. The U.S. auto industry set a record of 17.5 million light-vehicle sales in 2015.
Last year’s per-store sales increase came as the U.S. dealership total remained mostly flat. The number of dealerships rose 0.7 percent during 2015 to 18,087, while the number of franchises -- the brands dealerships offer -- rose 0.5 percent. Those numbers have been largely consistent since 2010.
“After a 20-year trend with an average of about a 1.5 percent decline [in the dealership network annually], the last six years appear to be kind of a new normal,” said Mitch Phillips, global data director at Urban Science.
Last year was another year marked by stability, Phillips said. The study found that 96 percent of local markets nationwide had virtually no change in the number of dealerships. The most growth came from Texas, with 23 new dealerships, California, with 19, and Florida, with 13.
Phillips said he expects 2016 to be stable for the dealership network, but it might be unable to set another per-dealership sales record because U.S. sales growth is expected to slow.
“I’m not betting my whole house on setting another record this year,” he said.
Phillips pointed to historical sales data, which show that periods of sales growth typically end after four to six years. Last year was the sixth consecutive year for U.S. sales growth.
Even if U.S. sales plateau or even decline slightly, Phillips said the number of dealerships and franchises should remain stable for the foreseeable future.
He said factors that could eventually change the number of dealerships include growth in electric-vehicle sales or a spike in the arrival of brands from China or elsewhere.