We're all just about fed up with the political politeness that describes the usual give and take between dealers and their factories.
Factories take for granted that dealers can make do, regardless of market or margin, and dealers tend to applaud almost any gathering that promises a better tomorrow.
But in commerce, nothing good comes from leading the other guy on with silence or, worse, with polite applause for a probable loser.
Some dealers and factory people avoid telling each other bold truths because they assume dodging the truth will create wiggle room, perhaps leading to a side deal.
Others tell me that saying the obvious out loud is a waste of breath, because “things are decided long before the announcements reach them.”
To the contrary, only through debate and critical analysis can we work toward a solution to our fractured industry. We need to a clear voice of reason supported by sound mathematics. We need willingness to air contrary ideas if we are to attain any type of consensus.
Factory offers are unilateral no matter how hard the presenter sells the impression that they are calculated as fair solutions. One-sided presentations should be viewed like the first “pencil” of a car deal.
Rooms full of quiet dealers have fueled more dealer and manufacturer undoing than all the bad designs and troubled economies. If you're queasy about the swill you're being force fed, don't expect anything to improve as long as you're willing to lap it up.
To this end, your response is very significant. Our recent history is the result of dealers and factory folks idly accepting mediocrity under a belief that they were powerless to demand better.
But factory and dealers know when they are taking advantage of one another, because they know when a deal really isn't a “deal.” This is especially evident when the math is so flawed that presenters pander to team spirit and rely on offers of lavish prizes to sell programs and new products.
For years, debate has been quashed by referring to dissidents as trouble makers. Critics have been singled out for ridicule, made the subject of dark rumors, and linked to words like “audit” and “lost allocation.” In a hushed breath, you might even have heard that those guys got passed over for the “real” deals.
But hand raisers are our heroes even if they may sometimes be tiresome and long-winded. They are the dealers and factory men who verbalize our quiet thoughts, in spite of personal consequence, and by so keep us from following one another off a cliff.
I've always tried to be on the side of win-win solutions but never run away from battling goliaths in order to protect an underdog against whom the odds were stacked.
In that vein, I've spent the past three years in a struggle many parts of which have been reported in the press and some of which will be presented here for the first time in upcoming editions.
Along the way, I've heard from many fellow dealers and factory men on the number of things they've quietly suffered at the hands of thieves, crooked vendors and the bad men in the industry.
I intend to write a series of columns that highlight the issues and people who have, in my experience and yours, been the devils in the dealership business.
I will explain how little guys can beat giants, bullies and creeps. If you've got something to add, I would welcome hearing from you. I'm at [email protected].
Automotive retail used to a place where an energetic and creative guy could invest his future and never look back. It can be again.
If your dream has been threatened, send me your story. I may have a contact for you, a little advice or maybe the comfort of knowing that you're not alone. Stay tuned.
Peter Brandow is a veteran dealer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.