I have been hearing a lot about pent-up demand.
Many folks think that there are plenty of car owners out there driving around in way-too-old vehicles, just drooling at the chance to go back into debt and buy new cars. Or maybe they'll buy newer used cars, and the sellers will end up buying new cars.
The theory is that there are a lot of people with the financial wherewithal to put down money for new cars and they are the only thing holding us back from a 17 million car sales year.
I don't believe it.
You won't get those buyers when consumer confidence is where it is and there are still millions of people who are nervous about their jobs.
It takes a lot of smarts and a large amount of magic to create a 17 million car sales year. No one understood what was going on a few years ago, right before the financial crisis put everything into something just short of chaos.
Yet even in the worst financial downturn in modern times, the auto industry kept turning out millions of cars and trucks. It is amazing how resilient our economy is.
The numbers have climbed back slowly, and everyone seems to be enjoying a level of profitability that hasn't been seen in a long time ... or ever.
But the industry has learned a lot of lessons from the economic disaster. Suppliers, dealers and manufacturers all seem to understand the difference between good business and just volume.
Everyone was willing to trade volume for anything, not realizing that it was possible to be much more profitable without all the volume.
Automobile retailers realized this first and have been impacted the most in the way they run their businesses.
Not many folks are chasing volume these days. Some are raising production to satisfy existing volume. Incentives, although still used, aren't as prevalent or as big as we saw a few years ago.
Everyone seems to have learned the lessons. Smaller volume with higher profitability isn't the impossible dream we thought it was five years ago.