The heady days of summer…fall, winter and spring

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From within and without, technological, regulatory and social disruptors have got dealers thinking — a lot

We are fortunate to be involved in a great industry.

Each and every day is exciting, challenging and rewarding.   

Sometimes, though, it can be depressing: just when you think you might have it nailed, you realize you are not even close. Being accountable to brand rules sometimes makes us
feel like puppets on a string controlled by a puppeteer with the hiccups, jerking uncontrollably.

The truth is that our industry is dynamic and complicated. After all, we distribute products in one of the most highly competitive industries on the planet.   

As dealers, not only do we need to work closely with the leaders of the brands we represent, we also need to excite our employees who in turn must meet ever-changing and diverse customer demands and expectations.

As dealers we must be risk takers, real estate mavens, engaging employers, social media innovators, regulatory compliance leaders, financial jugglers, community leaders, business innovators, opportunity seekers and wealth creators and preservers, all while being 100 per cent present to our families.   

To boot, all of the aforementioned must be accomplished while operating within a business environment under the watchful eyes of the brands we represent.

These brands operate in an arena of constant change as they seek market share and profitability while developing products future consumers will embrace, generating a solid ROI for their shareholders and stakeholders — of which we are just one of many.

Up or down the automotive retail value chain, difficulties abound.

Never before have so many outsiders been so interested in our industry.

From new vehicle manufacturing concepts right through to the end use of vehicles, there has never been a time with so much widespread genuine interest, ingenuity and investment in industry experiments.   

This economic spotlight adds to the stress of operating an entity within our industry. Patience seems to be a luxury of the past; demands for results seem immediate.

The media spotlight magnifies even the slightest of perceived missteps in an effort to provide instant access to the news of the day.    

Like it or not, we live in a world where anyone has a platform to communicate to the masses. This has greatly shifted the balance of power in many walks of life to everyday people.

The adage “paper never refuses ink” has been greatly expanded as bloggers and reviewers now have an unfiltered medium to say pretty well anything they want, any time they want to, without any filter of credibility.

Some consumers, although not all, are influenced by these unfiltered comments. Yet, we as business people are expected to manage the ultimate message — falling short of that causes others to think we are not doing our jobs.

It is truly unfortunate that our industry has a high-level reputation which, simply said, is less than honourable.

Over the years, the negativity created by a few incidents taints the millions of great experiences and casts aspersions on our industry.

It also does not help when major scandals such as emissions regulatory issues and ignition switch cover-ups and the like, surface to create another chink in the consumer trust armour surrounding our industry.

We are also living in times where the general populace is speaking out against established norms.

Brexit and several key political elections that have gone in the direction of uncharted outcomes are all evidence of this shift.   

In some ways, automotive retail is caught in some of the same rhetoric.  Industry outsiders looking to become insiders never miss an opportunity to promote the notion that the distribution system is outdated and in need of radical updating to keep pace with consumer expectation.

Through their climate change initiatives, governments have placed significant pressure on vehicle manufacturers and parts suppliers. This has created, in some ways, an expectation on the part of citizens and has led to a significant focus on alternatives to conventional ICE-based vehicles.

At the same time, potential changes to our historical vehicle ownership model have surfaced to further confuse the consumer.

Third party led initiatives for ride-sharing, vehicle sharing and subscription services introduce disruptive initiatives, giving consumers alternatives to traditional transportation provider paradigms.

Online capabilities are developing quickly as retailers and brands alike attempt to gain additional competitive advantage by offering consumers new online capabilities to make transportation services easier to access and transact.

Learnings from other industries and retail channels are making their way into vehicle retailing, creating more mediums for dealers to build long-term relationships.

Dealers in many ways are being bombarded with consumer-led options, requiring dealers to be proficient in delivering quality customer experiences in many forms, not just a single source.   

Our business is changing; this change is rapid and extensive.

Of key focus for vehicle retailers is keeping pace with consumer expectation in local markets, national brand competitive demands and brand local market competitive performance.

Put another way: it’s all about balancing customer satisfaction with market share and profitability.

Things today are not so different from the past; how we get there, though, is certainly evolving!

Dealers certainly have lots to think about.

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Canadian auto dealer