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MANY LARGE AUTO DEALERS MAY CLOSE

Many of the largest auto dealers may be forced to close or sell off their operations in the next 12 to 18 months due to the current auto sales downturn, the magazine Ward's Auto Dealer predicts.

About 5 percent are expected to go out of business, and another 20 percent or more will consolidate or sell off part of their operations, the magazine said.

There are about 25,000 auto dealers in the United States. Earlier this year, the president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, Ron Tonkin, said the typical dealer's profit margin is less than 1 percent.

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