Number of U.S. car dealerships on the rise, study reveals image

The number of U.S. auto dealerships rose for the second consecutive year in 2012 and is expected to rise for the next few years, a study says.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, the U.S. dealership count increased by less than 1 percent, to 17,851, from 17,767 a year earlier, according to retail consulting company Urban Science. In 2011, the number of auto dealerships increased by 0.5 percent.

“In the past, a 2 percent dealership annual decline was considered normal. But barring unexpected economic changes, network growth of 0.1 to 0.2 percent will become the new benchmark,” John Frith, vice president of retail channel solutions at Urban Science, was quoted as saying by Automotive News.

Average vehicle sales per dealership in the United States also rose 13 percent last year to a record 812 units. That was in line with the 13 percent increase in U.S. light-vehicle sales for the year.

If forecasters are right and auto sales in 2013 reach 15 million, average sales per dealership will climb to 839, Urban Science said. Sales per dealership is a key guide to dealerships’ profitability. Chrysler was the largest contributor to the 2012 gain, adding 135 Fiat dealerships and 50 Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep stores. Texas, California and Florida added the most new stores last year, with increases of 25, 24 and 11 dealerships, respectively.