Since 2002, roughly 20% of car sales outlets - 17,260 - have disappeared, substantially more than the 14,773 that closed in the previous six years, according to the latest GMAP European Car Distribution Handbook published by HWB International.
Similarly, since 2002, the number of service outlets dropped 11,901 or 11 per cent compared to 10,222 or 9 per cent from 1997 to 2002.
Average sales per outlet are rising as outlet numbers fall.
In 2003, Renault led competitors with an average of 1,001 vehicles sold per dealer contract, followed by Mercedes-Benz with 899 and Ford with 737.
Among Europe's top 13 brands the average number of vehicles sold per contract was 525. For all makes, the average was 341. Established brands made the largest cuts in dealer numbers. Opel and Vauxhall led with 871 fewer EU outlets this year than 2003, followed by Seat with 712 fewer. Citroen was down 622. Skoda added 799 more main and sub-dealers in the past year, mostly new authorised repairers in Germany. Audi signed up 461 new outlets and Kia 229.