Self-destruct mode, is it part of the process?

The U.S. auto industry is in melt-down mode, that’s not news. The root cause problem(s) depend on who you ask, but the need to sell cars and trucks … now … is not in dispute. And there lies a problem.

In the early 1990s another recession struck the U.S. economy. Back then it was an accepted belief that if you could spur the auto industry you could revive the economy. I held a belief that at any given point in time there were numerous people ready and able to buy a new car (in any economy) and that many of them delayed their purchase, not for economic reasons, but due to the painful buying process that you had to go through to buy a car. (I read an article back then that purported to have researched the process and found that it took an average of 8 hours to buy a car.)

I conducted a research project back then that found the “average” American delayed a planned car purchase by up to six months solely due to the perceived pain of the buying process. My theory was that if you could eliminate that pain you could sell a bunch of cars in a short period of time, and thus jump start the economy.

Well, here we are again. Big downturn (bigger than last time, especially in the car industry) and I wondered how things might change if people would buy cars. Unfortunately, I think the industry may still be its own worst enemy. Some friends are in the market to buy two new cars (well a car and a truck). They decided that their two 100K+ milage vehicles probably need replacing and the current economy might bode well for a good buying opportunity. Wishful thinking …

They spent all day Sunday trying to understand what car and truck to buy and what the price might be. They ran into the dealer sales process which in no way reflected their desired buying process. And this occured at more than one dealer.

Not having a bought a new car in several years they wanted to understand what vehicles to buy, whether to buy a 2008 or 2009 and how pricing might be set. No luck. The sales reps, after swarming them at each dealer, proved to be useless in doing anything other than reading the window sticker and escalating them to the sales manager whose question was always, “What will it take to sell you a car today.”

My friends were not going to buy a car yesterday. They were likely to buy two cars within the week, but none yesterday. After spending the day with dealer idiots, they may have decided not to buy any cars. Time will tell.

A perfect example of a sales process that destroys the customer’s buying process. Is it any wonder the auto industry in the U.S. continues to self-destruct.

Mitch

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