For many decades it was assumed that a local dealer had to stay local. He or she couldn't expand beyond a single point, so the goal was to make the single dealership grow.
That notion was destroyed when the imports came looking for dealers to establish North American networks. Thousands of dealers who couldn't expand with their domestic brands quickly latched on to the import brands, giving them strong dealer bodies that helped create strong businesses.
Today there are those who think that only manufacturers can be global. Too many executives and even dealers seem to think that U.S. retail business practices cannot be used elsewhere and that U.S. executives cannot or should not do business outside North America.
But more dealership groups are expanding outside the United States and Canada. Dealers from the United States are partnering with others or establishing their own dealerships all over the world.
That's because there is no one better than the U.S. auto dealer in any aspect of retailing, whether selling new and used vehicles, servicing them or doing business in any local market -- in the United States, Europe, China, Brazil or anywhere else.
There are plenty of opportunities for dealers in established and emerging markets. Manufacturers always are looking for strong partners to retail their vehicles.
In emerging markets, it makes sense to hook up with a strong, local partner. But in many parts of the world that's not necessary. With experience in the United States, most dealers could prosper in just about any country.
There will be more expansion in North America in the near future. Several offshore manufacturers are eyeing the United States as a place to establish their brands. It's a process that probably never will end.
But the real opportunities for venturous entrepreneurs are in emerging markets. The costs are lower, and the potential upside is substantial. Risks can be high in developing nations, and there seems to less risk in places such as western Europe and Australia.
The retail automobile business is just as exciting -- perhaps more exciting -- in markets outside the United States.
This is a risk/reward business.