A Kia dealer in central Ohio is fighting for his survival right now because he has not met his factory's sales expectations. His market requires him to sell Kias to Honda employees and their families, thousands of whom live in his area.
A Chevrolet dealer in metro New York nearly lost his franchise last year after the factory said he was not meeting its sales expectations there. His market requires him to sell Chevys in a metropolitan area renowned for its import preference.
A Honda dealer in upstate New York lost his franchise for failing to meet that manufacturer's sales expectations. His market required him to sell Hondas in a small, economically distressed market of loyal domestic-brand buyers -- some of whom the factory assumed would drive 65 miles to shop with him.
What those auto retailers -- and many more like them -- have been confronting is the jagged edge of a factory business analytic known as "retail sales effectiveness."
The metric goes by different names at different manufacturers, and some brands are hotter on its enforcement than others. But it is all the same math -- calculated by a single Detroit company, Urban Science.
For many retailers, sales effectiveness is just a cog in the clockworks of being a car dealer -- a sales report card from the factory that affirms how well they are beating the average at selling new vehicles in their market.
But dealers who are struggling say retail sales effectiveness is a cold metric that will not listen to reason.
"I corresponded with Volkswagen about this for years, both me and my attorneys," says Russell Atamian, whose family had operated Atamian Volkswagen in Tewksbury, Mass., since 1962. "They told me I wasn't sales-effective. I told them that to sell enough cars to make myself sales-effective, I would need a lot more inventory from them. But I could never get more inventory because I wasn't selling enough to earn them."