Wednesday, September 16, 2009

7-Eleven To Sell Cars?

"Oh Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven." That's what one of the auto industry's manufacturers could be saying in the near future.

It's true. 7-Eleven is toying with the idea of selling cars at its convenience store locations. And, why not? Many locations have the space, the auto market is improving and dealerships are closing up faster than Joe C. Thompson could stock bread and milk at the old Southland Ice Company. (Joe started the whole convenience store thing back in 1927. His SIC became The Southland Corporation in the 1930's and changed to 7-Eleven, Inc. in 1999.)

This is one of those ideas that just might work. GM is closing 2300 (about 39%) of their dealerships and Chrysler is closing 789 (about 25%) of theirs. For 7-Eleven to join in makes sense. The ubiquitous convenience store retailer can fill in a lot of the gaps left by those dealership closures. (The reduction in overhead costs will also play a role in the decision.)
And what about the Japanese? Perhaps Toyota or Honda could be the car maker of choice for 7-Eleven dealerships. Believe it or not, Japan has more 7-Eleven outlets than anywhere else in the world. And, a Japanese company, Seven & I Holdings Co., became the parent company of 7-Eleven in November, 2005. They run it as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Sources close to the discussions indicated that only the U.S. market is being studied. Expansion to other markets could happen if the U.S. tests come back positive.

Joseph M. DePinto, President and CEO of 7-Eleven, Inc. is said to have given his blessing to exploring this diverse business move.

Calls made to 7-Eleven, GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota were not returned.

There are more than 36 300 7-Eleven outlets worldwide; 5 800 in the U.S. and 12 300 in Japan. The opportunity exists, but does the risk outweigh any potential gains that could bloom from this venture? Let's wait and see.

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