I've been pleasantly surprised that things are going so well these days between manufacturers and their franchised dealers.
It wasn't always that way, and chances are it will change in the future.
Car manufacturers have been selling their cars and trucks through franchised dealers for more than 100 years.
In the late 1990s, some automakers decided that it might be better to eliminate franchised dealers and replace them with factory stores. Factory stores aren't unusual around the world, but they've never been successful in the United States. And they weren't successful in the latest experiment, either. Both of the manufacturers involved - General Motors and Ford Motor Co. - have given up any further thoughts of replacing franchised dealers.
So things are peaceful between dealers and factories these days. There are still a few items that require resolution - but nothing major.
There is nothing better than prosperity if you want your franchised dealers to be happy.
Right now, dealers are coming off three strong, profitable years. As one dealer told me: If you're not having record years right now, you might want to consider another business.
Although Ford, Chrysler and to some extent General Motors are all struggling to make a decent profit, the retail car business has been great. There is a good chance that 2003 will be another great year.
But the fact that the American automobile dealer has been so prosperous the past few years doesn't mean there aren't some basic disagreements between factories and franchised dealers.
That's the way it has been, and that's the way it's going to be in the future.
There is nothing wrong with a manufacturer of cars and trucks having an honest disagreement with dealers about certain aspects of the business.
They both want to sell as many cars and trucks as possible, along with a healthy dose of parts, but sometimes there are different points of view on some issues. All the tea in China isn't going to change that.
It's the nature of the beast. There always will be disagreements, but we've learned that manufacturers and dealers can be on the same wavelength most of the time.
Toyota understands it best when it tells you that it has only one customer: the dealer.
That's a great way to work together for everyone's success.