WASHINGTON — As some federal government officials push to ensure there is demand for electric vehicles, dealers need to “have a seat at the table and make sure that these policies that are developed will actually work,” said the CEO of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Speaking Thursday at the Automotive News Congress here with Automotive News Publisher KC Crain, Mike Stanton said: “We’ve talked a lot about dealer and factory relations, but we can’t get it done alone. Our manufacturers are stepping up. The dealers are stepping up. We know that government is as well.
“We need to work with the government on all levels to make sure that we get this right for this to be successful for the consumers,” he said.
Dealers are excited about the incoming wave of “fantastic product” for the mass market, Stanton said. “Dealers are actually all-in and essential when it comes to electric vehicles.”
On the biggest opportunities going forward, he said dealers working with the automakers in collaborative fashion is essential. “Rather than worry about the scraps of today, we need to focus on the future and what we can do to have a stronger partnership, a more trusting partnership with a focus on the customer, taking care of their wants and needs. … I think a factory and dealer body that gets this right is going to have a competitive advantage.”
Regarding online retailing and electrification, dealers “see opportunity with downstream revenue, but there’s some concern there, too.” Dealers need to get things such as over-the-air vehicle updates and subscriptions ironed out, and with vehicle reservations, “we’ve got to get our act together from an industry standpoint with regard to data.” The franchise model has to be looked at, and dealers have to define “what we’re for, what we’re against and how we benefit consumers.”
Amid dealership consolidation and record store values, Stanton said, “I view it as a very good sign, and that means dealers aren’t forced to sell their stores. It’s a voluntary situation.
“We’ve got some very smart people with very deep pockets that are investing in the franchised dealer model. So I take that as a good example that this is a system that will continue to win.”
Responding to an audience question on whether new EV brands circumventing the dealer network is an existential threat to the dealer model, Stanton said: “Well, that’s an easy question to answer. The answer is yes.”
He continued, “There’s no reason to think that a new powertrain requires a new way to sell a vehicle. But the franchise system works well for consumers. Dealers compete for the consumer business. And I think that that is proven to be good in the marketplace.”