Last year was simply a barn burner year for sales of cars and trucks in the United States. While it wasn't an all-time total-sales record, it set all sorts of volume and profit records for both manufacturers and dealers.
But in spite of all the records, a whole bunch of folks out there just don't think that everything is all that good these days. They want to reinvent the wheel.
For sure, the sales and distribution system isn't perfect. If it were, everybody would have perfect customer satisfaction, and there wouldn't be an unhappy customer in the land. But cars aren't perfect, and people aren't perfect. So unless you believe that the Internet will completely eliminate people, you're still going to have to deal with people to get your car delivered, serviced and maybe even repaired. And you're not going to be able to do that on the Internet anytime soon.
We're never going to be perfect. But we've got to improve the systems and the cars and the people constantly. Still, why the need to reinvent the wheel? Don't throw out the baby with the bath water.
It's fascinating to see how each automaker approaches retailing. Some manufacturers are very dissatisfied with the way things are and want to change them, either to improve profits or increase market share.
Others like the system pretty much the way it is and just want to fine-tune it. And still others like the system but recognize some flaws in it, so they are constantly looking for improvements.
Although Lexus, Infiniti and Saturn rewrote the book on retailing, they kept the basic distribution system pretty much the way it has been for 70 years. Now, some manufacturers are trying radical new methods.
And then there are the real entrepreneurs who are using their own money and buying dealers and experimenting with different strategies until they hit on one that works for them.
When the system is selling more than 15 million new vehicles through more than 20,000 franchised dealers, something is going very right.
Will changing the distribution system enable the industry to sell 20 million or send factory profits skyrocketing? That's anyone's guess.
But the American automobile dealer is doing quite a job these days and moving a lot of iron without any capital investment on the part of the factories.
It's a good thing.