In a normal market I would agree that dealers charging ADM are slime, but this is not a normal market. I worked as a consultant to the dealership industry for 14 years, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of how it works. You are correct I never met a poor dealership owner, most of them are very good people who are in it for a profit, but a large percentage of dealerships in the country today are owned by a corporation (AutoNation, Penske, Sonic, Asbury, Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, Hendrick, etc). The issue today is that the lack of inventory makes it difficult or impossible for the numbers to work.
For a large store with a significant overhead and large staff (60-150 employees) there are large fixed costs. In an average market their plan may be to sell 200 new and 200 used cars per month to make X% profit. When they are selling in the neighborhood of 10% of their goal there is no way they are turning a profit. Ford and other manufacturers are probably making concessions behind the scenes to help dealers out, but they too have shareholders to answer to. Selling 400 cars per month with an average gross profit of $3500 per car means $1.4 million per month in gross, probably $100K net profit from the sales department monthly. Increase the gross profit to account for a $10K ADM on 40 cars and the gross drops to $540K, putting the dealership solidly in the hole.
Short term disruptions are one thing, but we’re approaching year 2 of the supply chain disruptions making it impossible to meet their plan. There are some signs of this pain effecting even the larger groups, an example is Larry H Miller selling their 70+ dealerships to Asbury In September 2021. LHM was privately held, according to a buddy who is a manager in one of their locations they were bleeding out in this market. They had very generous programs and benefits for their employees (like paying $10K per year towards college for 4+ year employees) that are gone now. In a good market a productive dealership can be worth $50+ million, in bad times I’ve seen dealerships sell for as little as $2 million including the real estate. I have seen plenty of new dealerships built over the years, a large Ford dealership costs $25 million to build.
A small store like the one I ordered my first wave Lightning from has low overhead and a plan to sell maybe 20 cars per month in normal times. They are still able to sell 15-20 cars per month now, so they are doing ok.