Dealership throughputs drop, but total census rises slightly

Average U.S. dealership throughput is predicted to fall by 11 units to 936 in 2018. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

DETROIT — U.S. dealership new-vehicle throughput — or the average number of vehicles a dealer sells per store per year — is expected to fall for the third straight year in 2018, retail consulting firm Urban Science said in a new report.

The number of U.S. dealerships remains stable amid a slightly slowing new-car sales environment, Urban Science said Thursday.

Average throughput is predicted to fall by 11 vehicles to 936 in 2018, according to Urban Science’s midyear “Automotive Franchise Activity Report.” It creates its throughput prediction by taking the number of sales forecast by LMC Automotive — 17. 1 million for 2018 — and dividing it by dealer count.

The number of U.S. dealerships or rooftops has grown 0.2 percent in the first half of 2018 to 18,252 as of July 1, the report said.

“Since 2010, the dealership network has set a new normal pattern of stability,” Mitch Phillips, Urban Science’s global director of data, said in a statement. “The data shows that 98 percent of local markets had virtually no net change.”

Urban Science, headquartered in Detroit, found that most dealership growth happened in Florida, which added 10 dealerships. Next was Texas, with seven, followed by New York and Ohio, with five. Minnesota and Tennessee each added four dealerships.

California, the largest state for U.S. vehicle sales and which had long been on the most active list for increasing dealership counts, actually lost the most dealerships so far this year, at five, Urban Science said.

Urban Science also said the number of franchises in the U.S. has remained fairly stable in the first six months of this year, declining by just five to 32,024.

The Urban Science figures are close to those that Automotive News tracks. As of Jan. 1, the U.S. had 18,327 light-vehicle dealerships, up 66, or 0.4 percent, from 2017, while the number of car and light-truck franchises fell by 52 to 32,271 from the beginning of 2017, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

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