Auto dealerships are independent businesses, but factories have a strong interest in setting brand appearance standards. Automakers also have a right to expect dealerships to comply with reasonable brand and design templates for their buildings and businesses.
Most dealers acknowledge that.
But automakers should not demand too much too soon from dealers whose businesses are still in recovery mode and who may not yet have enough capital or sufficient lines of credit to make the required investments.
Much of the buzz at February's National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco involved concern about factory demands for costly brick-and-mortar changes.
Some of the concern may have abated. Last week, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said nearly three quarters of GM's dealers will have started or completed dealership makeovers by year end. In California, where the sales recovery is ahead of the national pace, dealership groups are spending big money to renovate stores or build new ones.
As sales improve and dealerships become more profitable, it will be easier to get them to be brand partners with their factories. But with many stores still struggling, this seems too early to force the issue.