If we are looking at a mild downturn in car sales this year, then every dealer who has not already embraced the used-car business had better start yesterday.
I don't know any smart retailer who has not already become deeply focused on used cars. It would seem impossible not to realize how great some of the used-car programs now available from manufacturers are, and what a boon they are to the customer as well.
In fact, some of them seem too good to be true. With these generous programs, it is easy to retail all the off-lease vehicles that have become available and that provide a never-ending source of inventory.
I still am not convinced that 2019 is going to be a bad year, but it makes sense to do whatever is possible to strengthen all the profit centers in a dealership.
After several years of great sales, far too many dealers have become sloppy — because it did not make any difference. When business is good, it is fairly easy to make lots of profits whether or not you are running a tight ship.
Even if there is no recession, it is probably long overdue to take a close look at all your departments. It may be time to tighten expenses and pull in some of the loose strings.
My first editor at Automotive News, Bob Lienert, always told me that when the car business was good, it was very good and when it was bad, it was still pretty good. That is still true today, but the business requires all your attention because it is very easy to take your eye off the ball.
In the next 10 years, there will be a lot of change in the franchise car business. Despite the billions of dollars companies are investing in new technology these days, I am not certain that consumers will embrace it quite as fast as the factories hope.
But whatever comes along, automakers are going to need dealers. And they had better all be ready and profitable. Be ready for anything.