Manufacturers should handle the Internet connection to shoppers and not let outside parties, such as online buying services, control auto sales, said Mike Jackson, president of Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc.
'We are absolutely committed to keeping control of the retailing of our products within the Mercedes-Benz retail network,' he said during his keynote address to dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention. 'It is priority for us to assist our retailers in harnessing the power of new technology rather than becoming victims of it.'
The coming of age of the Internet and e-commerce, combined with the new phenomenon of publicly held retail chains, quickly is changing the automotive retail environment, Jackson said.
'The old rules don't apply anymore, and, for many of us, the circumstances call for very aggressive, progressive action,' he said.
Controlling Internet dialogue with customers is one 'future retail assumption' identified by Mercedes-Benz and its dealers, Jackson said. Other such assumptions:
State franchise laws designed to define dealer-manufacturer relations cannot be relied on to protect the retailer from fundamental change under way.
Mercedes-Benz does not want to get into the retail business itself. 'It's not our core skill,' Jackson said. 'And we don't want to contract it out to some big publicly held entity. We firmly believe that the right entrepreneurial partners with the right management, the right capitalization and the right location at retail give us a competitive advantage that cannot be obtained anywhere else.'
Distribution can be improved. 'We can all do a much better job of having the right car or truck at the right place at the right time,' Jackson said. 'We know we can do it in a much more efficient and effective way in the future.'