San Francisco Loses Last Domestic Dealership

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
san francisco loses last domestic dealership

Detroit’s brand managers, particularly those at the resurgent premium and luxury brands, have made West Coast sales a high priority as they seek to bring new buyers into once-moribund brands like Buick and Cadillac. California, in particular, is a huge market for luxury and premium cars, and it’s generally an edgier, more youthful market that has long shunned domestic offerings. Everything from “lifestyle events” to no-cost hybrid drivetrain options on Lincoln MKZ have been introduced in an effort to get California’s copious yuppie population interested in Detroit luxury, but the results just haven’t shown up yet. According to Ford’s Mark “MKF” Fields [via AN [sub]], only about 25% of MKZ buyers were tempted by the free-hybrid deal in March, and meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Golden Gate City has just lost its final domestic auto dealership, a Ford/Lincoln store. Detroit may be California dreaming, but the Buicks and Lincolns of the world are still a long way from gaining ground in the West Coast.

Dennis Fitzpatrick, regional vice president of the California New Car Dealers Association explains to the Chronicle:

When you can sell 100 imports a month as opposed to 25 domestic, and what with the rents and real estate, it’s tough to make a U.S. car dealership pencil… San Francisco is not loyal to anything domestic; its allegiance is to anything but domestic

And he’s not kidding: thriving dealers selling Audi, Scion, Honda, VW, Mazda, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models all exist within a few blocks of the recently-closed Ford Lincoln store. Mike Hollywood, former sales manager at the last Chevrolet/Cadillac store in San Francisco, which closed 2 1/2 years ago, says he’s not surprised that Ford’s last San Francisco enclave has been shut down, noting that his former dealership is currently being renovated into

a flagship Nissan/Infiniti dealership [which Nissan says] “will represent one of the largest automobile retailing locations in the United States,”

Much of the rest of the country is used to quickly dismissing “San Francisco values” as being hopelessly out of touch with the rest of the country, but if Detroit wants to once again become a serious player (especially in the luxury/premium space), it has to do something to connect with California’s “coastal elite.” At this point, the situation couldn’t be much worse.

Join the conversation
3 of 57 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on May 11, 2011

    Selling Detroit products to Yuppie West Coast snobs is like trying to sell ice to an Eskimo.

  • Wheely Wheely on May 11, 2011

    I guess I'm one of the "coastal elite", whatever that means. Of the SoCal variety, LA west side. Not sure what's so "elite" about that, this seems to be a pretty crowded area. Be that as it may: people in San Francisco are doing the same as what people in Santa Monica and surrounding areas are doing: buy, within their budgets, whatever they damn well please. That doesn't sound very different than what people in say, Milwaukee, would do. Maybe different budgets, maybe different preferences, but the same principle. If the domestics don't produce what people want to buy, then that that doesn't reflect badly upon where they happen to live, it reflects badly upon the domestics for not having competitive offerings. Not even the People's Republic of San Francisco, Santa Monica or whichever coastal enclave you want to single out, prescribes its citizens which cars they can/cannot buy. So I agree with Edward's point: if Detroit wants to sell their product here, they better connect with what folks want. Simple as that. Otherwise we're doomed to bail them out again, with our elitist California tax dollars. BTW: Can't believe I'm standing up for NoCal ;)

    • Obbop Obbop on May 11, 2011

      The dividing line is planned to be placed in the Bakersfield area. I say give you SoCal folks everything Modesto south. I will take a couple square miles along the coast abutting Oregon. Get outta' my redwoods, heathens.

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.