At the end of World War II, GM "put a dealership in every little hamlet" to keep up with the postwar boom. Sixty years later, in 2005, long after that boom had ended and every domestic maker was losing market share, GM had 15,094 dealerships. By 2007 GM had reduced that to 14,118 dealers. But if GM plans to compete financially with its overseas competition, it will need to shrink that number a great deal further.

Chevrolet has 4,000 dealerships. Toyota, to sell the same amount of cars, has just 1,244 dealers. Put another way, the typical Toyota dealer moves 1,766 cars per year. The typical Chevrolet dealer moves 554. And the other domestics fare about the same: the usual Ford dealership rolls 556 vehicles off the lot every year, while a Dodge dealer does 374 per year.

GM is looking at consolidating Pontiac, Buick, and GMC shops into one. However, state franchise laws don't make closing dealerships easy, and it's hard to tell a profitable dealer that he needs to close for the good of the parent company. Dale Willey, head of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said "Dealers make the decision to get into the business, and the manufacturers accepted the dealers getting into the business. It ought to be the dealers' decision to get out of the business." While GM CEO Rick Wagoner realizes that the "payoff is significant" for reducing the number of outlets, he must know that the price will be significant as well.

[Source: Detroit News]