For years the auto industry has marketed at three levels:
- National - Image ads with the message to "Buy this car"
- Regional - Product ads with a promo message to "Buy this car now"
- Local - Dealer ads with a loss leader to "Buy this car now HERE"
Now, change is in the wind. As so many manufacturers go bankrupt, are acquired, or forced to reorganize, change is hitting at all levels.
In mid-May, Chrysler notified 789 Dodge dealers that they would no longer be Dodge dealers. There are some cases of lawsuits being filed by the states on behalf of the dealers to protest how the relationships will be severed.
As those issues are being resolved, it would behoove dealers, no matter which manufacturer they represent, to change their practices. Today. Seriously.
Not just their advertising practices. It goes without saying that the dealers must change the way they market. No more yelling at the cameras. No more slapping at hoods. No more dressing up in ridiculous outfits.
It all has to change.
But even deeper than the dealer's ads, the business model has to change.
As a profession that is regarded as the sleaziest of all, this is the best time to make significant changes to their operations. So many changes could improve their brand:
- Recruit and train employees to provide better customer service.
- Eliminate the practice of sweating the customer while checking with the mgr.
- Be honest about pricing
- Be honest about warranties
- Eliminate the hidden fees on the invoice
- Don't hide fees in the financing
- Be more fair with trade in prices
Overall, find operational ways to excel. Be better.
Once dealers operate in a more trustworthy manner, then they will be able to honestly market these improvements.
The dealers that make these changes now, will not only survive the recession, they will actually benefit from it.
The dealers that continue to slap hoods will continue to be mistrusted by the public. They will be overlooked as the industry rebounds. Now is the time for dealers to differentiate themselves.
What do you think? What will it take for dealers to excel? Can they?
Sr. Partner/Brand Strategist