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Changing marketplace demands taking long view: NADA chairman

November 18, 2010

Auto industry analysts should "take the long view" and not overemphasize current events, said the chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.


"The carmaker that’s up today can be down tomorrow," William Bradshaw said in an October speech to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.  "The same applies to dealers."


In response to news reports of a dealer surplus, Bradshaw said: "No one knows what the right number of dealers is. It’s a moving target that’s determined by the marketplace."


The NADA chairman said dealers know their local markets better than anyone. "Their business is all about adjusting to changing market conditions," he said.


"Individual dealers should decide when they are not making a fair return on their investment. This is not something that should be dictated by auto manufacturers."


Bradshaw said intense competition has prompted many dealers to be more creative and innovative in attracting customers to their showrooms. He cited amenities such as Starbucks coffee shops, on-site restaurants, Internet work stations, large play areas for children, interactive Web sites and putting greens.


"Dealers are stepping up their emphasis on customer service," he said. "This is paying off. Customer satisfaction with the car-buying experience is high."


"Almost every dealer in the country has an interactive Web site," he added. "And it’s proven to be not only an effective information resource for consumers, but also an excellent dealer marketing tool."


Bradshaw also highlighted the new steps that the NADA is taking to help dealers succeed in a tough market, including a toll-free consulting hotline where dealers can get in-depth analysis and advice to improve dealership operations for no charge.


The free NADA Lifeline Consulting Hotline operates 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time at 888-672-5140. Callers are connected to 20 Group consultants or Dealer Academy instructors, each with 25 or more years’ experience in the retail auto industry.


"(The) NADA’s role is to do all we can to help dealers survive and thrive in good times and in difficult times," said Bradshaw.


He noted that there is cause for optimism. Both domestic and international automakers are coming out with new vehicles that will help to stimulate growth. 


"Dealers and the auto franchise system," Bradshaw said, "have a promising future."