KEITH CRAIN

A busy time of year for dealers

COMMENTARY
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
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A lot of people in the manufacturing business have gone home.

There is a break during the holidays, and many people don't have to go to the office.

On the retail side, it's business as usual, and there is plenty to do. Christmas and New Year's are a couple of days off, but the time in between is just as busy as the rest of the year -- maybe busier.

Most customers don't have the slightest idea that there might be some whopper incentives out there at the end of the year. But if they are interested in buying a car, they might just find out that certain dealers have some great ideas.

There are plenty of service customers this time of year as folks use their cars for trips without any maintenance at all. Hop in and head for Grandma's house.

Actually, vehicles are very reliable these days. I cannot remember the last time I saw a car pulled over on the side of the road with a flat tire. Cars get thousands of miles more service than in years past.

But the retail business is different from the manufacturers' business. I am not sure that there are many in manufacturing who have any experience on the retail side. It would be a good idea to get some -- not for an afternoon but for at least a week. It's a completely different business, which is why the factories are usually so bad at it.

But right now, retailers have been busy trying to take care of all their customers.

I am not sure how many cars and trucks have been sold as the days have wound down to the end of the year, but my guess is quite a few. Without all those year-end deals, a lot of shoppers still look for a new car.

It has been a very good year. Almost without exception, dealers have had the best year in their history.

And next year looks like it might be just as good if the political problems don't explode and we are able to keep manufacturers from increasing their production just to get a few more points of market share. If that happens and we are awash with vehicles, all bets are off.

A little moderation will go a long way in this business.

Meanwhile, to everyone, a Healthy and Happy New Year.

You can reach Keith Crain at kcrain@crain.com.


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