All franchised car dealers don't think alike, especially when it comes to the hot-button topic of whether there are too many of them.

Whoever says there are — and the chorus is concentrated at the factory level — might not have surveyed the many dealers who challenge the claim that the nation is overpopulated by car dealers, particularly those representing domestic brands.

“Market play and the individual business owner always determine that no two people could agree on the exact, correct number of dealers,” says Annette Sykora, who becomes the National Automobile Dealers Assn.'s first woman chairperson at the annual convention this month.

Sykora, owner of Ford-Mercury, Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep stores in Slaton, TX and Levelland, TX, says NADA represents all dealers and it would be anti-competitive to get into a debate about how many dealers there should be.

NADA's outgoing chairman, Dale Willey, who owns a GM store in Lawrence, KS, asserts that overdealering is overstated. What's more, Willey agrees with his NADA board that dealers, not their franchisors, should decide when and if to close up.

Meanwhile, a look at smaller-town dealers shows how unique they are in coping with sales reverses. A few examples of dealers thinking creatively, often in the face of adversity include:

  • A Dodge dealer on a busy Interstate added a Hyundai franchise next door in a separate building, unable to connect in an Alpha 3-brand franchise with his market's Chrysler-Jeep store.
  • A Ford-Jeep dealer in a small town has formed a 5-store mini-group with a mix of Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, Chevrolet-Buick-Cadillac stores.
  • Cadillac-Kia and Pontiac-GMC-Hyundai-Mazda dealers on a large city's auto row have opened stand-alone subprime centers, while publicly owned megadealer, Lithia Motors, opened the first of planned dedicated used-car stores.
  • Dealers Larry Koss (Buick-Pontiac-GMC), Richmond, MI, and Duane Schultz (Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep), Milan, MI, ruling out being stretched too thin with added stores, focus on product rebounds from the new leaders at their factories and Internet-tied sales initiated in their towns.