The National Automobile Dealers Association convention was busy, as usual. It started with a bang from 5,000 miles away as Bernd Pischetsrieder and Wolfgang Reitzle, the top two executives of BMW, resigned.
They were a fierce combination who had different positions on how BMW should handle the continuing problems of Rover, and few thought that both would leave BMW at the same time. They will be difficult - perhaps impossible - to replace.
But even 5,000 miles away, BMW dealers and U.S. management were trying to figure out what this means to the brand. At NADA, where normally the conversation is just about retailing, the scope of discussions was far broader this year.
Everyone wondered what the takeover of Volvo's car operation by Ford will mean to that franchise. Is it a step in the right direction? What impact will it have on Jaguar?
As usual, retailing was a major subject. It doesn't seem that long ago that everybody wanted to talk about the superdealer. Well, we still have the superdealer, but he's sure different than the guy we were talking about just a few years ago. I remember when Dave Power started a superdealer club; at that time, there were about 100 such dealers.
Today, my guess is that when we talk about superdealers, we can't help but think about that fellow in Florida, and we'll probably throw in Ford and GM, but all those other dealers just don't seem to be what we're talking about today.
There are a lot of questions for the automobile retailer today, but, as I've said before, chances are that the challenges for most dealers aren't Republic Industries or Ford. The challenges are to keep getting better, to serve their customers, to try to cope with state and federal regulations, and to keep the peace with their factories.
Today, just about every dealer has more than one franchise, and that's probably good for the dealer and bad for the factory. But what the heck, factory-dealer controversy is nothing new. In fact, I've always noticed that the better the year, the fewer the complaints.
I've said it before, and I bet I'll say it again: The retail business is going to be about the same for the vast majority of automobile dealers. For some markets, the change will be dramatic, but for most, the best advice is 'just get better.'
But as always, NADA was an interesting week. Now all we have to do is figure out what it will be like with Mickey Mouse in Orlando, Fla., next year.