A few years ago, senior executives at several significant car manufacturers told me they viewed dealers as their customers. I silently scoffed at the time, given that this was in the twilight years of the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation and the few protections afforded specifically to a franchised dealer by the European Union were about to be stripped away.
Three years since the MVBER ended, it seems car manufacturers are more powerful than ever in their dealings with their franchisees. The relationship is a far cry from the one they would want their dealers to offer to the end customer.
We are currently seeing one manufacturer, not long ago on the brink of disaster, decide that the exciting product range that kept its dealer network alive will be stripped from half its franchisees.
Another is in the midst of a network restructure, informing some franchisees they will need to sell a profitable business to another preferred franchise holder who will invest more millions in better representing their brand.
A third has bigger concerns than simply network developments. In trying to limit the damage from a global scandal of its own making, it is failing to provide enough reassurance to consumers and dealers alike. It is also failing to allow its dealers a voice.
Just before we went to press, we held the AM Customer Service Summit. One of the key messages from it was that customers want openness and honesty.
So dealers, do you feel like customers?
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