Throughput recovers at U.S. car dealerships last year

Toyota, which has long held the industry’s throughput title, remained atop the ranking and saw its average throughput jump 10 percent to 1,638 vehicles sold per franchise. Lexus unseated Honda for the No. 2 ranking, as its throughput rose 11 percent to 1,253 vehicles, while Honda slipped to No. 3 even as its throughput increased 7.9 percent to 1,229 vehicles.

Toyota and luxury sibling Lexus had an easier time through most of last year than many brands in getting vehicles to dealership lots amid the microchip shortage. Toyota Motor Corp., with its large global footprint, generally was able to move chips to different markets as needed, at least until the fourth quarter. Toyota and Lexus inventories thus held up better for longer into 2021 compared with brands such as Honda, which had more pronounced inventory woes.

BMW moved up two spots to finish No. 4, as its throughput jumped 21 percent. Subaru, which slipped a spot to No. 5, was the lone brand in the top 10 to record a decline in throughput, as its average fell 4.8 percent. The rest of the top 10 was rounded out by Kia, up one spot to No. 6; Hyundai, up two spots to No. 7; Mercedes-Benz, down three spots to No. 8; Nissan, down one to No. 9; and Audi, up one to No. 10. Ford, last year’s No. 10 and the only domestic brand in the top 10 then, fell to No. 12.

Overall, 13 brands rose in the throughput rankings, 16 dropped and 12 were unchanged.

Mitch Phillips, global director of data for Urban Science, a Detroit consulting firm tracking dealership counts, told Automotive News that before Russia invaded Ukraine, he’d predicted throughput per store would rise about 5 percent in 2022.

“However, if the number of sales decreases because of the disruptions to parts, core elements, European supply and any more COVID updates … then, if the output falls and sales fall, then it will go down,” Phillips said.

Last year’s drop in dealerships was led by a decline of 30 stores representing General Motors brands. Cadillac shed 313 franchises — more than a third of its count — amid a dealer buyout effort triggered by its planned move to an all-electric vehicle lineup.

Despite an overall slimmer Cadillac network, the brand’s exclusives rose by two. The number of exclusives jumped by 51 for Chevrolet and by six for GMC.

Ford Motor Co. which dropped 14 stores in 2021, also had fewer franchises for Lincoln, down 8.1 percent to 685. The number of Lincoln exclusives fell by six to 133 as of Jan. 1. The brand is focused on the U.S.’s top 130 luxury markets and adding Lincoln-only outlets. It now has 27 such stores.

A spokeswoman said Lincoln’s overall franchise count has fallen even further in 2022, to about 650 as of last week.

“Over the past five years, Lincoln has been working with our retailers to consolidate our network to be more in line with other luxury competitors,” said spokeswoman Anika Salceda-Wycoco.

As Lincoln shrunk, the Ford brand gained 45 standalone stores last year.

Larry P. Vellequette, Hannah Lutz and Urvaksh Karkaria contributed to this report.

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