The number of franchised car dealerships in the UK actually rose in the last year – despite some car makers taking the axe to their networks.
The total number of franchised car dealerships, as of January 31, 2023, in the UK was 4,577 – a RISE of 13 showrooms on the data we published at the start of last year.
Our data looks at the 12 months up to the end of January each year – so this year’s data covers the majority of 2022.
Ford shed the most franchised car dealership outlets last year, losing 20 car dealership sites in the last 12 months.
Ford now operates from 315 outlets across the UK. At the start of 2022 it had 335 sites and at the start of 2021 it had 360.
Paul Singleton, Ford dealer operations director, said: ‘Ford continuously reviews its network to reflect changing customer needs, our transition to electrification and the profitability of dealer partners.
‘With any network change, the priority is to minimise customer impact – 90 per cent of the population will live within 30 minutes of a Ford sales point.’
The fastest growing brand on our list was 4×4 maker Ineos – adding 24 dealerships last year from none the year before to sell its new Grenadier.
To view the data in full you need to be a registered member of the Car Dealer website. The table is viewable at the bottom of this story for logged in readers.
While Ford, Honda and Mercedes lost the most significant number of sites, challenger brands like Ineos, MG and Tesla opened new showrooms.
Ineos built its new dealer network during the year and added the most showrooms with 24 opening up.
Gary Pearson, head of sales and marketing for the UK, Middle East and North Africa, said: ‘We are very grateful to the partners who have signed up to the Ineos Grenadier family, and their teams who are already helping us look after thousands of customers and prospects.
‘Since we began deliveries and test drives their support has been invaluable, and we look forward to supplying them with vehicles and a healthy profit as we build the business together.’
Meanwhile, MG added 12 new car dealerships in the last year, taking its total to 156 – up from 120 in 2021 when we first started our research.
Chinese brand GWM Ora opened seven and while BYD is listed as having zero sites at the start of 2023, it is set to rapidly expand its UK presence this year.
Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car?, said: ‘For all the talk of seismic shifts towards online sales, agency models and more, the erosion of rooftops continues to look more like trimming at the edges than a wholesale change – and even then there are notable brands that continue to expand their footprints.
‘Of course, relationships can’t be terminated overnight, and substantial changes could still arrive en masse, but for now these figures back up the latest What Car? data that suggests buyers are, post-pandemic, increasingly disinclined to buy without first visiting a dealership.
‘Dealers know it – and OEMs appear to recognise it too.
‘For now, the only conclusion can be that dealerships remain at the absolute heart of the vast majority of new car purchases.’
David Kendrick, CEO of UHY Hacker Young, said the data was very interesting.
He told Car Dealer: ‘The data certainly highlights the fact that certain OEMs are looking to consolidate and reduce their number of representation points.
‘A common theme appears to be emerging with reduced locations and the introduction by many of the agency model – a focus on driving down the cost of distribution to the consumer.
‘I think as we look to 2023 we will see a significant number of Stellantis group locations falling away as well as some VW Group sites as part of the network realignments ongoing.’
Steve Young, ICDP director, said he could see dealer networks shrinking further in the next few years.
He told Car Dealer: ‘Networks remain far denser than is required. In work that we did with Urban Science last year, we demonstrated that if you cut a typical 120 point sales network to just 60, average drive times rose from 17 minutes to 24 minutes, and 94 per cent of the UK population would still be within 40 minutes of a dealership.
‘This compares with what UK new car buyers tell us, that they would be willing to travel up to 52 minutes to a dealer for their new car purchase.
‘Dealers need to look at their property portfolio and ensure that they do not end up being left “holding the baby” when the OEMs finally take action.’
To view the full list of how many car dealerships each brand has below, you need to be a registered member of the Car Dealer website.
Additional reporting: Rebecca Chaplin