Editorial~Would You Buy A Car From The Apple Store? or Good Things On The Horizon
This is going to be a bit longer than my normal editorials, but I think you'll find it an interesting one. So pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and as my dear kindergarden teacher Mrs. Sheldon used to say, "Put on your thinking caps".
Apples and Cars
While not every one of the Atlantic Motorcar Center's fans may be an Apple computer user (but I'd wager the number is pretty high), chances are most of us have strolled by, or even into, one of the Apple Stores in our local mall.
If you ventured inside, as those who have done business there can readily attest, you'll find a lively, bright, informed, and passionate sales and support team. If it's a question on the newest iPad, or a problem you need solved at the Genesis Bar, statistics prove that apple customers are overwhelmingly overwhelmed at the goodness of the process, and the high level of service they received.
So what do Apple Stores have to do with cars?
Good question, you see, Apple has an analogue in the auto world, a company you've likely heard me mention here many times before, Tesla Motors.
New Ideas Can Be Better
Like Apple, Tesla makes an incredible product, cutting edge, with great customer service, and while their current offerings are at the upper price points in the market, they're soon coming out with a midrange auto to compete with the likes of your average company, employing American workers, building an exceptional product, what's not to love?
But, and here's the hitch, unlike the consumer electronics world, were the playing ground is level, and the best price, service and product win the consumer, Tesla has a bit of a hurdle to overcome....namely arcane state laws that prohibit the manufacturer of an automobile from selling it directly to the consumer.
Now you'll hear one side try their darndest to tell you why this restriction in trade (and your choice) is a good thing...but not one of those reasons will really stick to the wall...in fact, just the opposite is true.
Is there anyone who enjoys a trip to the new car dealer to buy a car...anyone other than the new car salesman? Anyone find that fun, think of it an enjoyable experience, want to repeat it often, or bring friends? How about when that shiny new car breaks, and they do, has the service department always made you happy? Do they really know the product, or do they have to "call the manufacturer"?
Even when the system, as arcane as it is, does work, is the customer satisfaction as high as the Apple Store model? If you answered "no", then you are with the vast majority of Americans who despise the current new car dealer model (some would say as high as 85%). Give me 5 minutes, and a cup of coffee, and I'll give you a dozen reasons why the current system doesn't serve the consumer. But chance are you don't need me to tell you...
So if the current business model, that of privately owned dealership, doesn't benefit the consumer, doesn't allow free markets, doesn't reward the best service..who does it reward? The answer...drum roll please...the car dealer, you folks are smart! You see, most car dealers in this country are owned not by the manufacturer, but individuals, who own one, or in the current trend, a chain of stores. Think about their loyalty for a moment, right..you get the picture.
The Good Old Days
So who do they serve...well, in days gone by, when it was the hometown dealer, and they served the customer...and did so pretty well. They had to, or no one would be back to buy next year's model. But that system has changed and that paradigm, of the small town dealer, is largely gone.
The Not So Good Days
Now you have large multi-state chains owning these dealerships, employing "business development departments", with little or no connection or responsibilities to the local economy or towns. Because these faceless corporations own multiple car lines, they have little skin in the game to keep you in one brand, and can, and do, in fact play you off from the various franchises they own. Unlike a company with only one product line to sell, they work in their own best interest...not yours. Have a problem with your BMW, well then, head over tot he Volvo dealer, conveniently owned by, you guessed it, the same company. Don't like the Volvo, try the Toyota, again owned by, you guessed it...and so it goes.
Here's An Idea
Now every business is in business to make a profit, and all entitled to do so, but shouldn't it be the consumer's choice where your hard earned money is spent? We think so, which is why we're so excited about the new business model offered by Tesla Motors, factory owned stores, offering factory knowledge and support, concerned about the customer buying another one of their products. Think of it as the Apple Store for cars!
Problem is, some state's have arcane laws, like the one in this article, which restrict this practice. You'll hear all kinds of reasons why, but follow the money and you'll find out, it benefits the dealership owner. It's not about local employment, factory stores still need to employ folks in the local community, it's not about wage scale, they have to be competitive or people won't work for them. It's certainly not about knowledge, who knows your car better than the very folks who built it, and have not self-interest to worry about, other than making you, the consumer happy.
When Tesla comes to Maine, and it is my hope they soon will, be sure to press your local legislature to open up your choices, to open up your opportunities as consumers, and more importantly to give you the sales and service experience you deserve.
P.S. Some may wonder about the wisdom of someone who does what I do pontificating on this topic..and I agree.
i can only share that after 30 years in the auto service world, I've learned to see and say, what is right, and more importantly, what is right, and more importantly, what is wrong with the system...and I want to see our customers, myself, and friends, have a superior sales experience. We've got enough loyal customers that we'll always be busy, we just want to see those good folks served better in the new car buying process.
I really believe in, and dig, the electric car paradigm, and Tesla's business model. I'm a believer that, to borrow a phrase, "a Rising tide lift all boats", and I want to see my industry, my profession, advance and change with the times.
Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car company that doesn't have franchised retail dealerships, may be force to close stores in New Jersey after a state commission voted to automakers from selling..