Reports from across the country indicate that in order to secure money from Uncle Sam, the Big Three domestic automakers (Ford, GM and Chrysler) may have to trim many of their models and brands. One article noted that the Big Three together sell 112 different car and truck models through 15 different brands, while the three largest Asian OEMs (Toyota, Honda and Nissan) together sell 58 models through seven brands.
GM, especially, seems reluctant to kill off any of its brands, citing the $1 billion it had to spend to curtail the Oldsmobile brand a few years ago. Still, reports and rumors suggest that in order to survive GM will have to kill the Saab and Hummer brands, and possibly even the Pontiac and Saturn brands (leaving it with Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Buick, domestically).
Pure conjecture on my part, but I’d be willing to bet Ford has to agree to nix the Mercury brand if it wants any government cash. The company is looking for buyers for Volvo; if it sold and Mercury was axed that would leave FoMoCo with the Ford and Lincoln brands, plus a minority share of Mazda.
Whither Chrysler and its parent company, Cerberus? Again, pure conjecture at this point, but with only the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands extant, I’d be willing to bet that if Cerberus has to axe a brand, it would be the namesake Chrysler brand. (Cerberus has long been rumored to be looking for a buyer for the Jeep brand.)
So what effects would this have on the dealership network? Likely a lot. For instance, GM operates a reported 6,200 dealerships in the U.S., compared with 1,200 Toyota dealerships. However, the GM dealerships account for 14,000 branded franchises, compared with just 1,600 franchises for Toyota.
Time will tell, but in five years the domestic automotive landscape will look nothing like what it did even a year ago!