All of us must work with the Internet
I would like to add my reaction to the developing relationship between the auto industry and the Internet.
Currently, we see only the tip of the iceberg. There has been much discussion of the Internet, and there has been much negative reaction by some dealers. I believe that stems from fear of potential loss. To allay such fear, I hope the manufacturers will do more thinking, planning and communicating with their dealers before communicating with customers.
I am a relatively new Lincoln-Mercury dealer, and I have had extraordinary help from Ford Motor Co. Ford has proved over and over again that it is a resourceful and willing partner so long as I maintain an open dialogue. Ford Motor Co. wants my dealership to be successful.
We don't yet know all the Internet can do to help expand our business. But it is here to stay, and we must work with it and learn all we can about this new method of marketing.
Change is difficult because it involves the unknown. We can work in the present while developing strategies for the future. The principles of partnership, the fundamental ethics of all business and the respect and regard we have for each other must remain unchanged.
Fret about dot-com, not AutoNation
It amazes me how far behind the car business is when it comes to the buying process for the consumer. Many restaurants are more high tech than a lot of dealerships.
It is obvious that the auto business is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50. Much of that change will involve computers and computer systems.
Information and the buying process have been made easier for consumers through access to the Internet. With 330,000 people worldwide joining the Internet daily, personal computers will be as common as telephones in households.
Education for change is essential if the auto industry is to stay ahead of the curve. Product alone won't be enough. Convenience and service will be the driving forces in conquest sales. Rebates and cut-rate financing will have less and less impact on buyers. Manufacturers and franchised dealers must look and think differently.
Salespeople will evolve into account managers. Customer satisfaction will be measured through e-mail. Dealers will compete more with e-commerce companies than with other dealers. The interesting thing is that it is all here right now.
Car manufacturers must worry more about the dot-com companies than about rivals like AutoNation and CarMax.
FRANK C. PHILLIPS