As I'm writing this column on April 21, we're perhaps days away from decisions that will affect the future of our industry and our country, including many of own personal futures.
The next couple of weeks are the most critical this industry has ever seen. In a very real sense, we're watching, even participating in history as it unfolds. Historians will be writing about this period in our industry for the next couple of centuries, at least.
But it's hard to get excited because the pain will be so acute for so many.
I've had friends and readers in the industry rail on the media for the doom and gloom that we've been writing. As if we're to blame.
Many of us don't enjoy writing these sort of columns or stories. Our future is tied to the future of the industry. I'd rather be writing about the hot new vehicle, or how dealers are setting all sorts of sales records.
But the reality is different. And we have to report what the real story is.
It's almost as if two asteroids are hurtling to earth. We know the approximate times they'll hit, but we're not exactly sure of the fallout. The only thing we can say with reasonable confidence is that, of the domestics, the Ford, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands will survive. The others? Well, we just don't know.
Even if GM and Chrysler both survive, hundreds, if not a couple of thousand dealers will disappear the next several months. I've talked with several dealers, both GM and Chrysler, who wonder if they'll be in business next month. Nobody has an answer.
If Chrysler goes into bankruptcy in the next few days or couple of weeks, at minimum 3,300 dealerships will be closed. There will be a ripple effect. We'll likely see several hundred more of other brands, including imports, shut down also. Chrysler dealers who have other franchises are going find floorplan financing for the rest of their operations almost impossible to get.
GM, meanwhile, will survive in some form. It might be Chevrolet-Cadillac only, or it might include Buick and GMC.
The next several months are going to be painful for many people associated with the industry. But there is hope and lots of it.
Vehicles are as good as they've ever been. Their content, design and reliability are phenomenal. And the industry could be on the verge of making real headway in building green vehicles for a profit, which could lead to a surge in sales the next few years.
Additionally, there are several dealers who believe the next few months will provide opportunities to add to their portfolios while streamlining expenses.
We likely will see regional dealer groups that are well capitalized grow their businesses to sizes they never imagined.
The public dealer groups, once they're able to pay down their debt obligations, will watch their stock prices go through the roof — perhaps as early as next year.
For those of us that survive, the future will be grand. We just have to hang on the next few months.