We're in the middle of a war that seems like a combination of real soldiers with real bullets and a video game. But it is a real war, and it's going to take a while to get it under control.
Meanwhile, the industry needs a promotion that will motivate American consumers and make them realize that there are some rather remarkable automotive bargains out there.
General Motors is giving its dealers a massive amount of support to help sell cars and trucks. In the past few weeks, we've seen inventories creep up.
They haven't reached the unmanageable stage yet, but they are becoming uncomfortably large.
So GM executives decided that they needed something new to boost sales, and we'll see whether going to interest-free loans for five years is the ticket.
After 9/11, GM came up with the big idea. It doesn't happen very often. The last big idea in retailing may have been the introduction of the customer rebate in 1975.
That happened after the first OPEC oil embargo, when no one wanted to buy a car. And automakers didn't sell many trucks back then.
Chrysler came up with the idea "Buy a car, get a check." It worked well.
Since 9/11, GM's incentives have worked well.
It will be interesting to see whether America will embrace interest-free loans again. It isn't easy to keep coming up with a new great idea.
As consumers, we're hooked on promotions. Walk through your local supermarket, and you'll realize that the automobile companies aren't the only ones using promotions to get you to buy their products.
Packaged-goods companies usually offer a much higher percentage of the retail price as a coupon or discount. If the car business used the same percentages, rebates would be a lot bigger.
Many folks don't believe that rebates belong in automotive marketing. That's foolish. Rebates may not work in every market around the world, but in the United States, consumers love promotions. They always have and always will.
The latest round of promotions is starting. My guess is that they'll work this time and that another promotion will work in the future. That's the way the game is played.