What we can't count on

Mary Slepicka
Publish Date: 
Aug 21, 2014
By Mary Slepicka

I’ve been watching a lot of dealer commentary lately, and I have the distinct feeling that most of you are ready to pounce.

Some of you would…If credit eases up. If the OEMs would just get off your back about inventory. If the guy down the road would stop discounting. If those websites would just go away.

I understand. I went to journalism school in the post-Watergate era. I wanted to work for a metro newspaper.

For those born after 1990: A newspaper was a periodical publication produced with tree pulp, ink and a machine called a “printing press.” A human being delivered one copy to your door every day. It contained news, feature stories, an obituary and a bunch of car ads. You would read the newspaper to become a better informed individual.

I long for the newsroom days. But they’re not coming back. You long for big sales and market protections, but they’re not returning, either.
Here’s what we CAN’T count on:

  • Remedial training. This isn’t the kiddie pool. You want to work in powersports retailing? You’d better bring advanced skills to the table.
  • Territory integrity. No longer are you the only one in a 30-mile area selling a particular product. Even if there are agreements in place for vehicle sales, on the PG&A side an etailer is going to swoop up your customers and carry them away when you’re not watching.
  • Government support. Ask the dealers who have been fighting fixed-rate financing or the latest land restrictions in their areas.
  • Websites going away. Get real. If one dies, a bigger one will take its place.
  • Loyalty to the U.S. market. Volume growth is elsewhere. Yes, you helped build the brand back in the day, but the manufacturers are international entities, and their focus has turned. It doesn’t mean they don’t value you, but they have new markets to conquer.
  • Baby boomers. Even the “golden boy,” Roland Sands, is now apparently middle-aged (I saw it on Facebook). Hello!

So what do we do with all this? To quote an overly popular Disney movie, I think we have to “let it go.”

See, you dealers are a cagey bunch. Some of you have negotiating skills that could resolve the conflict in Ukraine with both sides wondering what in the heck just happened. You move your business strategies around like a sportbiker in L.A. traffic. Compete with an etailer? There’s a way to do that (and you’ll learn it at the ROI workshop at Dealer Expo). Customer showrooming? You can turn him into a buyer that very day. You are better than you think you are. When you’re on your game, I get some popcorn and watch.

Put the memories in a drawer, survey your environment, and make your next move.