The retail business changes again
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
Just a few decades ago, if you wanted to buy a Zenith TV, you went to a Zenith store. If you wanted a Robert Hall suit, you went to a Robert Hall store. And if you wanted to buy a Pontiac, you found a Pontiac dealership.
It evolved a bit more last week when AutoNation said it will change the names of 160 of its dealerships to include the AutoNation brand name. It was inevitable, and I am surprised it took so long.
My friend David Fischer has called his dealerships Suburban for many years. Wherever they are, that is how the stores are labeled. In Southeastern Michigan, Suburban is a well-known dealership brand with a familiar reputation.
Now AutoNation will be able to take advantage of a larger national footprint with what will become a well-known automotive brand with many dealerships around the country.
It is just a matter of time until other large dealership groups start to brand their stores with their group names in addition to the vehicle brands.
And it makes a lot of sense. Extending customer-satisfaction reports across a wide range of automobile franchises will give consumers a much better idea about a group's dealerships.
There are many powerful owners of dealership groups in this country, and we will see more of their names on stores from coast to coast.
It is possible that we'll see dealership groups band together into co-ops with a single name to broaden the groups' reach.
We likely will see national advertising on behalf of a number of dealerships with the same brand. The possibilities are limitless.
Over time, this is bound to change the marketing of vehicles to consumers. Perhaps the next multimillion-dollar facility upgrade might be so that all dealerships of a particular group look alike regardless of which cars or trucks they sell.
Dealers will look at the opportunity of national advertising with their group of same-brand dealerships.
They know what a game changer the AutoNation plan will be.
It will begin slowly, but over time we will see dramatic changes in marketing. It's a good thing for consumers, factories and certainly franchised dealers.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.