DETROIT - There is no doubt that automotive retailing is in flux. The growth of online shopping, the rise of dealer chains such as AutoNation Inc. and experiments with factory-owned stores are redefining the way vehicles are sold.
But automakers and dealers have different views of the speed, scope and impact of such developments, according to a survey of dealers and manufacturer executives conducted last fall.
'Nobody understands where the other guy is coming from,' said Jim Mateyka, vice president of A.T. Kearney, an automotive consulting firm. 'OEMs are almost overly optimistic about how good dealer relations are, and dealers are saying (they) can't figure out what OEMs are thinking.'
Kearney conducted the survey along with the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation. Ma-teyka outlined the results Nov. 9 during a media briefing in Dearborn, Mich.
The disconnection between dealers and manufacturers is obvious in the survey's findings. Take advertising's future role, for example. Dealers still see advertising as a powerful traffic generator; manufacturers see a shift to building brand image.
On pricing, dealers say customers want to negotiate; manufacturers say no-haggle is the wave of the future.
Still, dealers and the factories do agree on some things. Both see customer use of the Internet growing, and both believe manufacturers more and more are bypassing dealers to target customers directly.
The findings are revealing but not surprising, said Elizabeth Spear, an economic analyst with the National Automobile Dealers Association who helped develop the survey and interpret its results.
'We knew there were disconnects,' she said, 'but not the extent or which issues.'
A formal survey report is expected to be released in December.