Cars have changed. The way people shop for cars has changed.
But has the art of selling cars changed?
"It needs to," declares Grant Cardone, one of the industry's best known dealership sales training consultants. "Salespeople are spending far too much time on transactions -- particularly now, at a time when it's critical for dealerships to increase their throughput."
But interviews at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention show conflicting views as dealers contend with Generation Y, consumers carrying smartphones and factory pressures.
The industry generally is in agreement that showroom salespeople need to be better trained -- but better trained to do what?
One contingent favors better training to build customer relationships. Another proposes better training to speed things up to get customers finished and on their way. One voice says train them to hand off technical issues to other showroom employees. Another says better prepare them to be product experts.
"So much right now is riding on the salesperson," reflects Joe Verde, the dean of auto retail sales training. "And that's often the least trained, least educated, least motivated person in the industry."
Cardone and others say salespeople don't need relationships with consumers -- they need to get the sale done. He offers statistics to back that up.
But Verde says spending less time with customers results in a lower closing rate. And he, too, has stats to back it up.
In Verde's view, the notion that digital technology and Generation Y have fundamentally changed the business is exaggerated.
"Nothing has really changed," he says. "People are talking about speeding up the sales process. They're talking about customers who don't want to come to the showroom.
"But it's not an issue of Gen Y or older people. It doesn't matter whether it's my grandfather or my grandson shopping for a car. They expect the salesperson to be nice and know the product and to listen to them. That's always going to matter."