DETROIT Feb 14 The number of U.S. auto
dealerships rose in 2011 for the first time in 11 years, and the
per-dealership sales average is expected to set a record high in
2012, dealer consultant Urban Science said on Tuesday.
Chrysler Group LLC added the most dealerships, adding 135
dealerships for its parent Fiat SpA and 50 dealerships
selling the main Chrysler Group brands, Dodge, Jeep and
Without the addition of Fiat dealerships, the number of U.S.
dealerships would have fallen last year.
John Frith, vice president at Detroit-based Urban Science,
said the increase in dealerships by 0.6 percent to 17,767 is a
sign that the major U.S. automakers have normalized operations
after the 2008-2009 financial crisis and bankruptcies at General
Motors Co and Chrysler.
"We have a stabilized, right-sized dealership network," said
Frith. "Automakers and dealers are in a good, profitable
Frith said that the expected throughput, or number of cars
sold, per dealership should rise to a record of 785 in 2012 --
up from 719 in 2011, 656 in 2010, and 564 in 2009, when U.S.
auto sales fell to a 27-year low.
The 2012 forecast of 785 vehicles per dealership is based on
a forecast for U.S. auto industry sales of 14 million by Paul
Taylor, chief economist with the National Automobile Dealers
Association, up from 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011.
Fiat, which sold a single model in the United States, the
compact Fiat 500, had throughput of only 146 cars per
dealership, well below the industry average of 719 vehicles sold
per dealership in 2011, Urban Science's study showed.
Dealers of Toyota Motor Corp's namesake cars and
trucks saw the highest throughput in 2011, at an average 1,126
vehicles, followed by Ford Motor Co's Ford at 664 and GM's
Chevrolet at 579, Urban Science said.
Laggards included GM's Buick franchises, which sold only 84
vehicles per dealer in 2011, and Ford's Lincoln at 87 vehicles
per dealer. But while many Lincoln franchises are in standalone
dealerships, most Buick franchises are paired with GMC truck
franchises, which averaged sales of 226 per dealership, Urban
Many car buyers now start research on the Internet, and the
number of sales leads from the Internet is forecast to rise to
85 per month per dealership in 2012 from 75 in 2011, said Jody
Stidham, global practice director at Urban Science.
In 2010, leads from the Internet were 63 per dealer a month,
Some 15 percent to 30 percent of auto sales made in 2011
were generated from Internet leads, Stidham said.
People who simply walk in to dealerships still account for
about 30 percent of auto sales, she said.