It's obvious that the U.S. economy is having problems. How much your business has fallen depends on your segment.
In the car business, it may be more a matter of geography since each part of the country gets hit differently, and that affects new-car sales accordingly.
For example, in northern California, near all those dot-coms, the retail automobile business may be tougher than in Florida or Washington, D.C. It's never the same all over the nation.
But after such a long and prosperous period of auto sales, maybe it's time for a bit of a downturn or, as some refer to it, a slowdown.
Maybe it's long overdue.
For the automakers, the breakeven point has changed. It's one of the things that prosperity has done for everyone. We used to think that anything over 14 million or 15 million cars and light trucks was cause for celebration.
The bar has been raised quite a bit in the past few years, particularly since automakers have had only minimal price increases.
The real breakeven for the domestic producers now is a total market of about 16 million units.
On the dealer side, when times are good, it is easy to get a little fat around the edges.
Almost every dealer has shared in the prosperity, which means it might be a good time for some housecleaning.
That means doing what we knew should have been done a couple of years ago but didn't worry about when business was so good.
Dealers tend to have the best profits right when business takes an uptick. That's because for the period before the uptick, they were very frugal. After a couple of years, things start to get a bit sloppy because it doesn't matter.
Well, as of today, it matters.
And it will continue to matter for a few months, so it's a great time for dealers to see where things have loosened up too much, time for a little belt tightening.
The retail business will be all right, so now is the time to clean house.
In a few months, when the inevitable economic improvement comes, you'll see the kind of profit margins you wish you had had the last couple of years.
Besides, it's good for the soul.