NEW ORLEANS -- Judging from the comments of auto dealers emerging from make meetings at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention last week, the focus this year will be on more, bigger, better, richer and faster.
Not to say that retailers have entirely forgotten the pain they went through after the industry crashed five years ago.
But the new era of 15 million-plus sales years has made dealers flat-out bullish.
"They've asked me to make store upgrades, and I don't mind," dealer Dan Fields said of BMW's facilities program. His Fields Auto Group in Winter Park, Fla., has four BMW stores. "This is the perfect time to do it. They've got great products and more coming, and I'm bullish."
It's hard to argue. Several makes -- BMW included -- posted record sales in 2013. Dealership profits are soaring again, thanks to new practices and discipline instilled during the crisis. No longer haunted by the experience of employee layoffs, dealers instead fretted with factory bosses about how to hire more people, make sales and service technicians more productive and prepare their stores for the likelihood of still higher volume this year.
The fear of out-of-control factory inventories may be the one recurring concern in dealers' comments. Oversized inventories lead to incentive wars, which lead to reduced margins, some noted.
But that specter is still far away, says Joe Herman, COO of the 15-store Kuni Automotive in Vancouver, Wash.
"The OEMs have been in a situation where everything's worked," Herman says of the growing market. "What happens when everything works is you sort of think, we can double it and it's still going to work. And eventually there's too much inventory.
"But we're not there yet. We're not hyperworried."
Amy Wilson contributed to this report.