Hey Auto Manufacturers! What’s Up With This?

cartoon with question mark and arrows

If you’re an auto dealer, once in a while you may get a bit cranky with your manufacturer. They do some crazy stuff to their dealers sometimes. You may be cranky again pretty soon, because some of the carmakers are starting to mess with your advertising.

If you’ve ever done any co-op advertising, you know that they are pretty demanding about what they want in the spot. Sometimes it seems like they are trying to make your dealership’s advertising look like a factory branding spot, which ultimately benefits the other dealers who sell your make, as much as it does you. That might be okay when they are paying, but how about when it’s your money?

Let me explain. First, ad people all know that once a consumer has decided what make and model of car he (or she) wants, the next decision is which dealer to buy from. The carmaker doesn’t care as long as they buy their brand, but you sure do. If you are skilled at advertising, you can sell more than your share of vehicles in your market. If you’re a Toyota dealer, your competitor for volume (and therefore revenue and profit) is the other Toyota dealer. But the manufacturers are moving toward not allowing you to compete. (Whether you like it or not, that means less money for you!).

Even if you are not using co-op funds, some manufacturers are going to demand they approve your ads. If you try to differentiate your dealership from other dealerships that sell the same brand, the manufacturer won’t let you. They are going to give you a “check mark” against your dealership if you compete. You won’t be able to say you are better, friendlier, more convenient, have better customer service, better prices, etc.

Creative, competitive advertising will be impossible and the approval process is going to become a time-wasting nightmare. “You can’t say this, you can’t say that, change this, change that.” You might as well hire a “brand enforcement” employee at your dealership. Why is this happening? It’s happening because the manufacturer only cares about the brand, not the dealer. They want all the advertising to look the same. Good for them, bad for you. They have demonstrated that they couldn’t care less whether your dealership beats another of their dealers in your market.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, for one thing, they’re not paying for the ads, or your overhead, or your employees, or any of your other expenses. You should have the right to compete with your competitors. Believe me, your biggest competitor is the guy down the road that sells the same brand you do. If they cripple your ability to compete, they will harm your revenue. If that happens, try holding your hand out to the manufacturer. Tell them their new rules made it impossible to sell as many cars, so could they please help pay your employees.

So, how do you feel about it? Tier one advertising is supposed to be the manufacturer spending money to make the public want the brand. Tier two advertising is your regional group making your community want the brand. Tier three advertising is your advertising. It’s designed to convince the consumer to buy from your dealership instead of from a different dealer that sells your brand. If your manufacturer demands that you not differentiate yourself from the other dealer, they are essentially making you pay for their Tier one advertising. Clever, don’t you think? The branding wunderkinds that work for the carmakers think it hurts the brand when their franchisees compete. They are forgetting that dealers want and need to compete. When they don’t, you get something vanilla, that doesn’t work. We call it, Saturn.



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