The year 1886 is regarded as the birth year of the modern car. In that year, German inventor Karl Benz built the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Cars did not become widely available until the early 20th century. One of the first cars accessible to the masses was the 1908 Ford Model T, and the transportation industry was forever changed.
I remember the story told to me by a dear friend, Della Weeks, who was born in 1901 and lived to be 102, about her first ride in a Model T. The top speed was no more than 45 miles per hour, and she thought she would surely die! Her father, driving for the first time, couldn’t remember how to stop the car, and he ran directly into a tree!
You would think everyone would be ecstatic about the dramatic change in transportation. Not at all. There are two things about change they learned in the days of the Model T and that we should remember:
1. Change Is Hard and Usually Slowly Embraced.
Nearly 250,000 blacksmiths made their living fitting shoes for horses. Another 100,000 or so built and repaired carriages. Some of these accepted changes and looked for new and better opportunities. Some resisted the change and made efforts to help everyone see the harm these new ideas would bring. Great craftsmen and sales skills would still be a premium even in a new phase of the transportation industry, and they were great at both!
Regardless of which side you fell on this issue, one statement could be assured of its accuracy, “Change is a-coming and you’d better get ready!” True in 1908 and true in 2017.
We have dramatic change happening in the automotive business. The manner in which customers gather information about vehicles, how they arrange financing and decide about products to protect the newly purchased vehicle has all gone online to some degree. This challenges us to decide which side of the change will we put our energy.
Some will go to one extreme and decide technology will fix everything wrong in the car business. However, we must realize that technology is a facilitator, not a fixer. Others will overreact and push back against the change. Neither effort will stop the change that is happening and gaining even more momentum.
2. Embracing Change Accelerates Production.
Embracing change assures the days ahead will be much more productive than the days behind! Every forward-looking change, painful as it may be, will launch us further down the path of development as individuals and an industry.
I have attended two conferences in the last three months. At both, there were calls for change that just makes sense and will make for a better customer experience. There were also calls that appeared to be asking for change for change’s sake and should be viewed with caution and, at times, rejected.
The wisdom to know the difference is a greater need than many of the changes themselves. At times, I felt that the discussion at the conferences was more thinking out loud and looking for direction. And we only have to look inward to find the wisdom we need to navigate through it.
Our business needs forward-thinking champions with the wisdom to know what to embrace and what to reject. We must all admit that we’re not sure what this business will look like five years from now. The vehicles and the processes we use to sell them will continue to evolve. However, if those that are forward-thinking and wise lead us, we will embrace the changes ahead and ways to utilize those changes to make our industry more customer-centric and more helpful to them will be developed. That is a recipe for a great future.
The strong partnerships between automotive dealerships and general agents will prove to be one of the keys to chart the path ahead. For general agents and dealers alike, it’s the most exciting time ever to be in this business — and the speed of change is faster than ever. It’s going to be fun, because “change is a-coming and we’d better get ready!”.
I look forward to seeing you on my next post! Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!