I dialed up the digital edition of this week’s Automotive News a bit earlier this morning than usual.

I was excited to see my first-ever op-ed piece, an excerpted chapter from my new book, Like I See It: Obstacles and Opportunities Shaping the Future of Retail Automotive.

The chapter focuses on the idea of dealers applying greater investment discipline as they manage their used vehicle inventories. It offers two specific prescriptions: Focus on inventory investment quality, not age, and set a hard-cap on the total dollars invested in used inventory.

You can read the op-ed piece here. I’d welcome your comments and thoughts.

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I don’t normally use this blog for promotional purposes.

But I hope you’ll forgive this one-time policy suspension to plug the upcoming publication of my fourth book, Like I See It: Obstacles and Opportunities Shaping the Future of Retail Automotive.

Like any author, I’m awaiting the official release date of next Tuesday, Oct. 17, with a mix of anticipation, excitement and fear. You just never know how your work will hold up, particularly when your intended readers are dealers, OEMs and other sharp-minded retail automotive professionals.

I recently sat down with David Pyle of Cox Automotive to talk about Like I See It. The video below captures our conversation and offers a sneak peek at some of the ideas and topics I address in the book, which I undertook to help our industry face a challenged and somewhat uncertain future.

I hope that you’ll watch the video, and that you’ll add Like I See It to your reading list.

Thank you.

 

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When I was a teenage kid, if you wanted to keep up on music and politics, you read Rolling Stone.

I credit my older brothers for introducing me to the magazine. Once I’d read it the first time, I was hooked.

I especially remember the writing. For me, Rolling Stone was a way to be in the front row at concerts, or behind the scenes of a political campaign, without actually being there.

It didn’t hurt that the magazine had an edgy reputation—just the sort of thing that made a teenage kid from the Midwest want to get his hands on the latest copy.

These memories come to mind as I read the news that, on the eve of its 50th anniversary, Rolling Stone is up for sale.

The news didn’t surprise me. It’s been years since I’ve read a copy, and it’s tough, in general, for magazines to be successful in today’s digital age.

But I was struck by some of the reasons that apparently led to the sale, and the lessons they offer for dealers:

Resistance to change hurts. Rolling Stone’s founder and publisher, Jann Wenner, reportedly didn’t think a print magazine would ever fall out of favor, even as subscribers declined and shifted online in recent years. There’s a lesson here, I think, in the way many dealers regard (and often resist) the purchase preferences of today’s car buyers. I suspect Rolling Stone would be better off today if it had opted to reinvent its business and distribution model a lot earlier. The same seems to be increasingly true for dealers and the rise of online retailing. In the end, there may not be much “it” to get around to if you wait too long.

Reputation and relevance are related. I can’t recall a specific reason I stopped reading Rolling Stone. I do remember the articles and stories seemed less compelling to me in college and beyond. Perhaps the last time I sought out Rolling Stone followed the controversy over its story of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. I read the piece for myself and thought, “this won’t turn out well.” Subsequent investigations found serious breaches of journalistic fundamentals, all of which damaged the magazine’s reputation. Dealers would do well to remember that your reputation is only as good as the worst online review or your last miffed customer. Likewise, today’s consumers have long memories, and social media outlets to vent, when you break their trust.

Talent sets the tone. You could make the case that Rolling Stone thrived the most when it consistently fielded top-notch writers and photographers—some of whom Wenner had the foresight and guts to give their work its first significant chance. The same is true for dealers. When your people really shine, so does your dealership. As their leader, it’s your job to create the environment where they have a real chance to reach their potential, and continue to grow, as individuals. By definition, this outcome means dealers have to do way more than simply provide an attractive paycheck.

The New York Times article reports that Wenner, in the late ‘90s, turned down an offer of $500 million for Rolling Stone. Last year, Wenner sold a 49 percent stake in his company for $40 million.

Perhaps those figures represent the biggest lesson of all.

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A Post-Harvey Call For Rational Retailing

09.06.2017

My phone’s been buzzing this past week with dealers and others asking for my take on how Hurricane Harvey will affect the used vehicle market. For one thing, I suspect dealers everywhere will feel or see some of Harvey’s after-effects. After all, the storm claimed an estimated half-million new and used vehicles, and more dealers […]



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4 Misunderstandings About Price In Today’s Auto Retail Market

08.17.2017

Old beliefs and habits definitely die hard. Take the way many dealers still think about their new and used vehicle prices: Dealers control vehicle prices. I’m not talking about the obvious point that dealers do, in fact, largely set the asking prices for their vehicles. My point relates to the ever-more powerful influence the market […]



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A Sign of New Vehicle Inventory Imbalances

07.24.2017

I had an old rule of thumb when I was a dealer: You could get a bead on new vehicle inventory imbalances by the number of full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune on Sundays.. If the paper’s automotive section was chock-full of full-pagers, you could reasonably bet that dealers were sitting on, and therefore more […]



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How The Little Things Determine Your Car Business Success

06.26.2017

“It’s life by a thousand little things, or death by a thousand cuts.” A dealer recently shared this line as we were discussing how the car business has changed in the last 25 years. The dealer’s observation strikes me as a perfect, clear-eyed summation of how efficiency, technology and transparency have made retail automotive a […]



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A Manager’s View Of A Volatile Used Vehicle Market

06.19.2017

I had an eye-opening conversation the other day with used vehicle manager Jim Mason of Steven Toyota, Harrisonburg, VA. We were discussing how the dealership’s average front-end gross profit was lagging its target by about $300 for the current month. Mason knew exactly why: The store’s average days in inventory had crept up about four […]



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A Longer-Term View Of Digital Retailing For Dealers

06.06.2017

Dealers often have an “all or nothing” view of digital retailing. That is, to them, digital retailing represents the full monte of selling a new or used vehicle online. You’d have a “buy it now” button on every vehicle details page (VDP) for every vehicle, customers would work their deals, and dealers would deliver “sold” […]



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Dispatches From Down Under: A Great Trip Comes Full Circle

06.01.2017

The other evening I had “a parma and pot.” To explain, I was in a pub to take in a most quintessentially Australian experience. I was there to watch the first match of the annual best-of-three State of Origin series between the Queensland and New South Wales rugby teams. The Series tradition calls for eating […]



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