Saturday, 16 May 2009

Adios, Dealers

When I was a kid in Bama...within a twenty-five mile radius of my house....there were a total of seven Ford dealers. Don't ask about GM or Chrysler....because my dad in those days was a Ford-guy.

My dad typically bought a new car every two years. He would drive the car into the ground on the mail route and then find enough reason to buy another Ford. This enormous mission would then occur. He'd pick the type and then proceed to all seven Ford dealers.

Color really didn't matter too much....although you could forget white or red. So he'd waste an hour talking to the sales guy and finally get the rock bottom price. Then we'd proceed onto the next guy. Same model, same type. From the seven involved, there was never more than $350 difference from top to bottom. We probably burned $60 of gas in this adventure....remember....gas was between 45 and 80 cents in this era.

By age sixteen, my dad had now expanded the circle to 100 miles, and I discovered that there were around eighteen of these dealers now. That was pretty much where I saw no benefit to this entire game. I lost interest fast. The price difference....never more than $350 on that model.

So today, when these guys sit and talk of terminating 1,000 dealers within GM or Ford or Chrysler....it really doesn't bother me....at least from a sales point. In fact, within twenty-five miles of my dad's place...there ought to be a max of three dealers. I might even go down to two.

The real issue comes after that point, with maintenance. If I have a bad situation and need a repair....then show up at some guy's lot with my broke car.....I don't want to have to wait five days to get a one-day warranty repair job done. I don't see service coming out as a plus in this down-size deal.

Another curious thing is that car dealers were typically the money-bags for local political figures. If you slept with them....you got support and introduced to the right people. So we are taking out a 1,000 GM dealers....who would have helped some local political figure make it to the big-time. This might be a plus in some ways.

Now, if I were a Honda dealer....watching this unfold.....I'd put out an ad and let folks know that my business is up and running....with a 5-star maintenance staff still in place. Nothing changed. I might just be able to steal business from GM and Chrysler.

Its a new day in car buying, and we might just regret it.

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