A 100-year partnership between automakers and auto dealers has made the franchise system the dominant way that cars and trucks are sold in the United States. This special issue of Automotive News examines the franchise system - its history and its growth, its current issues and its future prospects.
The issue is organized around five pivot points in the franchise system's evolution: its origins; its development with the rapid growth of the U.S. industry; its big changes in the 1950s that empowered dealers; its accommodation of import automakers; and its survival amid tough challenges in recent decades.
We look at the way General Motors, Ford and Chrysler adapted their franchise systems to suit their particular needs. We review alternatives to the system that have been tried and failed.
For comparison, we examine the way the dealer franchise system has developed in Europe, Japan and China. We also consider important issues related to the American franchise system: the "overdealering" phenomenon, the emergence of minority dealers, the tug of war between the factory and dealers over auto advertising.
And we ask industry leaders and other experts how the franchise system is likely to change in the next 100 years.
Because the story of the franchise system is essentially a story of people, it is rich with drama, tension and colorful characters. You'll meet them, and hear them talk, in these pages.
As the franchise system enters its second century, we intend this special issue to give you a greater appreciation of the system's contributions to the economy and life of this country.