Since the end of World War II, the number of new auto dealerships has steadily declined, yet over the last few years, the number of new auto nameplates has been on the rise.

As a result, auto manufacturers are finding themselves in an unusual position: Not only must they compete for the hearts and dollars of American consumers, they must, like companies trying to get their soap and cereal into grocery stores, battle for dealer "shelf space.""Nameplates that are not profitable may find themselves (doubled up) with another nameplate, moved to a showroom of less importance, or even dropped from a dealer's portfolio," notes a report from the market research firm J.D. Power & Associates.

A recent Power study found that 8 percent of the nation's dealers may discontinue at least one franchise during the next year.

Most dealers are generally content with their German and Japanese franchises.Among the American nameplates, Ford and Chevrolet have won the strongest dealer loyalties.