Automotive retailing is getting more complex and auto makers are becoming more involved in it, says Samuel X. DiFeo, president and COO of publicly held megadealer UnitedAuto Group Inc.
In contrast to how dealerships looked when he became a dealer 25 years ago, DiFeo says, “Today, OEMs want buildings of a certain design, furniture of a distinct style and an enhancement of brand loyalty.”
He doesn't begrudge the auto makers' participation and interest in showroom issues of late.
“I see OEMs continuing to push us to — I'll call it, behave — because we're the final touch point to influence the brand,” he says. “If the car is OK, but the process terrible, it's going to hurt brand loyalty for the OEM as well as the dealer.”
He foresees more attractive stores, a softer sales process and a greater use of data base management to keep customers.
“It's logical to nurture a base of satisfied customers,” says DiFeo. “Dealers who don't understand this are losing out.”
He adds, “The traditional salesperson who waits for walk-ins will be a thing of the past.”
Meanwhile, dealerships should expect to do more e-commerce because “a lot of young people are using the Internet for just about the entire transaction.”