The six megadealers participating in J. D. Power and Associates' retailer roundtable Friday agreed on one thing: Toyota and Lexus are the best franchises to have in 2001.
"We had three Chrysler-Dodge stores. We sold one. We have a buy-sell agreement pending. That leaves us one. I think that speaks for itself," said Joe Serra, of Serra Automotive in Grand Blanc, Mich.
Asked which franchise will be the next to go after Oldsmobile, the vote was split: Two picked Daewoo, two named Buick, and two selected Mercury.
The panel provided their insightful and often entertaining perspectives on a wide range of questions fired at them by the audience and by moderators J. David Power III, chairman of J. D. Power and Associates, a consulting firm in Agoura Hills, Calif.; and Keith Crain, publisher of Automotive News.
The dealers agreed the manufacturers are putting too much emphasis on delivering a car in five days, since they sell most vehicles from inventories.
Henry Faulkner II of the Faulkner Organization, which operates about 20 dealerships in Pennsylvania and Delaware, volunteered to participate in an experiment involving the five-day car. "I'd gladly volunteer to compete against a dealer who has nothing in inventory with a promise to get a car in five days, and I'll sit there with 30- to 45-day supply of good inventory. I wouldn't even ask for manufacturer support."
The dealers agreed they would like to order vehicles and know they would be delivered in a predictable and relatively short time, in order to better satisfy customers and to take cost out of the system.
Greg Penske, president of Penske Automotive Group in El Monte, Calif., doesn't see the day when consumers order a car exactly as they want it and have it delivered in five days. But he expects dealers will be able to spot a similar vehicle in the pipeline and get it delivered in a short time, allowing them to cut inventories in half.
For cars, Honda's simplified ordering process is the ideal, said David Conant, president of Conant Auto Retail Group, based in California. "It allows a dealer to have a broad inventory without having thousands of cars on the ground."
John Bergstrom, CEO of Bergstrom Corp. in Neenah, Wis., and Bert Boeckmann II, president of Galpin Motors in North Hills, Calif., called the five-day car a nonissue, for one reason: The manufacturers can't do it.