The factory, the product, the media coverage, the recalls, the blitz of lacking and half-cooked information. When does the dealer get the coverage? When they're closing, exposed as corrupt or so-called environmentalists torch their lots. Welcome to the square peg and the round hole in the automotive industry, if not the perfect storm.
And who's to blame for the lopsided ego-train? Yes, the factory is guilty: plain as day. More than not, they treat the dealer like a flea on the 800-pound gorilla. But so is the dealer base. For the last couple decades, the dealers have waited for the new models, created mediocre-at-best, self-indulgent print and radio ads, greeted fearful (or at least resentful) customers in less-than-desirable locations and then wondered why they have the (earned) reputations they do.
With exception to the leaders in the industry, dealers have not done much to truly brand and distinguish themselves. Don't get 'yer panties in a wad yet: We're not saying that you don't impact your communities, gainfully employ many or that you don't feed tax revenue into your city's coffers. What we are saying is that the dealer brands have not matched, let alone eclipsed, the nameplate and that is sad. Today would be one of those days if you happen to sell one of two import brands…and we all know that the domestics have had their days as well.
There has not been a better time ever to build a sustainable brand aside from what the factory does. And wouldn't you want to do something different?!?!?! Have you paid attention to most car ads? Have you seen the POPs that are created for showrooms? You're better off putting one of those 40-foot high lizards or cylindrical men with billowing arms on your roof! Actually, please don't do that, 1986 called and they want their marketing back.
How does the dealer win today? Start competing with the factory by becoming your own media. On the web it's more achievable for less money than you'd ever imagine, if you do it right. You might even start working with your customers and actually source, communicate and retain them successfully. There are some OEMs that actually want to take over your CRM and relationships but it's not because they can do it any better than the dealer can. Truth is it's not happening correctly at retail. This evening I was talking to a successful local dealer group that has one of their import stores source nearly every walk-up the same way in their CRM: simply click the first drop down choice. CRAP!
The foundation for winning is simple, it's just not easy: unbreakable processes, management from the top down, complete comprehension of systems and support and a die-hard commitment to the customer. If we don't do that, it's all for naught.
These are still very trying times in automotive (special mention to the banks!). Maybe we can all start by simply trying to keep ourselves from making it any harder. Start internally. Then make sure your 'home' is in great shape. Then concentrate on the customers. Then, alas, take care of the factory.
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results