The brand is king! What's the brand?
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
There will be an increasing debate about the new definition of brand and who owns a brand.
Twenty years ago, there was no doubt that the make of a car was the brand, with exceptions for certain nameplates such as the Corvette and the Mustang, to name a couple.
So it made the most sense to have the dealership named for the car company's brand.
But plenty of local dealerships are better known in their markets than the cars they sell. People trust those dealership brands and do business with them, sometimes regardless of the cars they sell.
That's a big plus for the manufacturer, which has the best of both worlds -- even if its car brand is second in local recognition.
But now we have some national and international dealership brands that overwhelm the manufacturers' brands. As far as customers are concerned, they are doing business with the retail brand of the dealership, not the car.
The same thing happened in the retail business in food and appliances. Today manufacturers fight for attention in the retail store and not always just from the consumer but from the retailer, too.
A long time ago customers stopped going to specialty stores, with some notable exceptions. They prefer to go to a retailer where they can compare all the brands at the same time. It is sort of like having an auto show available before you buy a car.
We are going to see a quiet revolution in the car business over the next couple of decades, and the consumer will be all in favor of the change.
After national branding, we'll see the combination of several rival car brands under one roof. Woe to the lone manufacturer's brand all by itself in a store that competes with the dealership down the street that has four brands under one roof.
It's going to make for an interesting marketing battle, like watching Sony, Samsung and four other TV brands competing under one roof.
It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.
And it will be embraced by the consumer, who will love to be able to shop among rival brands under one roof, at one store.
The strongest car brands will fight it, but the second level will embrace it quickly.
This business keeps changing, and that's what makes it exciting.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.