There has been a lot of conversation lately about autonomous vehicles, driving services and electric vehicles. Some of it has been civil and even informative and some of it has been close to hysterical.
It is important to have rational conversations because of the impact such discussions will have on the future of the motor vehicle.
So far, almost all of the talk has been about the effect of change on manufacturers and suppliers. But it will also have a huge impact on automobile dealers and their employees across the nation and around the globe.
The changes facing dealers will be no less profound than what they encountered during World War II, when almost overnight dealers had no cars to sell and lost most of their young employees to the services. They had to figure out how to stay in business, no mean feat with the country on a wartime economy.
Dealers are facing the same scale of disruption in the decades ahead. Unlike World War II it will not happen overnight but it will happen.
American automobile dealers have proved they are resilient. They have been learning to cope with the Internet. They have discovered there are many customers who are getting their information online and see no need to visit a brick-and-mortar facility. The Internet has changed the way dealers communicate with customers, in every area of the store.
As autonomous vehicles arrive, the number of crashes will be reduced and thus the need for repairs. Employee job functions will need to change. Dealers will need to employ many more people with technology training rather than just mechanical backgrounds.
And as all of this is happening, electrification of vehicles will be added to the mix.
The role of dealers will evolve and constant retraining will be needed.
But dealers will be as essential as ever. They will continue to be an integral part of their communities.
It is going to be a challenge, but at the same time very exciting.