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DEALERSHIP DECLINE IS STEEPEST SINCE 1982, ACCORDING TO AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

DEALERSHIP DECLINE IS STEEPEST SINCE 1982, ACCORDING TO AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
 DETROIT, March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Plagued by a continuing recession that chopped car sales, the auto dealer population last year suffered its biggest decline since 1982, Automotive News reports in its March 16 edition.
 The industry opened 1992 with 23,368 new-car outlets, down 904 from the 24,272 in operation a year earlier. It was the steepest drop since 1982, when 974 dealerships bailed out.
 Both Big Three outlets and import-only stores were down, the annual Automotive News census found. The Big Three suffered a bigger numerical loss; the imports were down more on a percentage basis.
 Each of the Big Three lost dealers last year. Chrysler Corp. was down 252; General Motors was off 244; and Ford Motor Co. had a dip of 152. That total of 648 was reduced to 628 by a change in the number of intercorporate duals -- dealerships that handle cars of two or all of the Big Three in the same showroom.
 The import-only stores fell to 5,012 on Jan. 1, a dip of 276 from 5,288 a year earlier. The 5,012 import-only dealerships consist of 3,941 exclusives, which handle a single imported make, and 1,071 duals, which handle a combination of import lines, but no Big Three makes. Both totals are down from a year ago.
 On Jan. 1, the Big Three had 18,356 dealerships, down 3.3 percent from 18,984 a year earlier. The import-only total of 5,012 was down 5.2 percent.
 The first half and second half were turnabout situations for the two segments.
 The Big Three lost 345 dealerships in the first half and cut the attrition to 283 in the second. The import-only stores showed a gain of 17 in the first half and a loss of 293 in the second.
 Last year brought the third consecutive downturn in car sales, and those three years have cost the auto industry 1,545 new-car dealerships. The dip of 189 in 1989 was followed by 452 in 1990 and 904 last year.
 The doldrums of the early 1980s exacted a much heavier toll on dealers -- 1,558 in 1980, then 633 in 1981 and 974 in 1982 for a three- year drop of 3,165.
 On the franchise side, 19 of the 31 imported makes in the Automotive News census lost dealers during 1991, including Peugeot and Sterling, which withdrew from the U.S. market.
 Aside from the wipeouts of Peugeot and Sterling, the biggest loss was suffered by Porsche, down 40. Declines of 20 or more franchises were reported by Volkswagen, Audi, Saab, Daihatsu, Maserati and Alfa Romeo.
 Ten imports added franchises last year, with Hyundai, up 73, posting the biggest gain.
 Among the domestics, Saturn, up 76, and Eagle, up 67, reported the only increases.
 Chevrolet and Ford, the largest dealer organizations, took the biggest hits. Chevrolet lost 150 franchises, and Ford lost 134. The lightest losses among the domestics were recorded by the two most expensive Big Three cars, Lincoln (15) and Cadillac (20).
 Automotive News is published each Monday in Detroit by Crain Communications Inc., which publishes 25 business and consumer magazines and newspapers.
 -0- 3/16/92
 /CONTACT: Jack Teahen of Automotive News, 313-446-0362/ CO: Automotive News ST: Michigan IN: AUT PUB SU:


JG -- DE004 -- 8149 03/16/92 09:07 EST
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Date:Mar 16, 1992
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