What are carmakers scared of?

  10 March 2014

Publication of our annual Franchising Report and the spring edition of the NFDA Dealer Attitude Survey (DAS) tend to go hand in glove, and not just because we publish extracts from the DAS in the report. We also use the results of the survey to inform our editorial comment about the prospects for each franchise.

Of course, we take other sources too – such as interviews with executives at car launches and motor shows, informal chats with auto retail group bosses and a questionnaire to the carmakers themselves about plans for the future. The idea, naturally, is to build up as complete a picture as possible before we put pen to paper (or cursor to screen).

A recent trend we’ve noted has been the increasing reluctance of several national sales companies to share their future network plans with us.

I realise this is my problem, not yours (and we do have ways round it) but I do wonder why they feel so defensive about information that is often common knowledge in the industry.

Equally, if you ask an NSC about their poor showing in the NFDA Survey their default position is always “not a representative sample”, rather than admitting they’ve got a problem and they’re trying to do something about it.

 Actually, the underlying message from both the Franchising Report 2104 and the latest survey is that relations between the manufacturers and their franchise networks are pretty healthy at the moment; perhaps not surprising, given rising new car sales and increased profits (at least in the retail sector).

 It could have all gone horribly wrong. We’ve had the biggest slump in European car sales in living memory, a new legal framework in Block Exemption and a renegotiation of a sizeable chunk of dealership contracts – with barely a murmur of protest. Fair play, to both sides.

 So, why the defensive attitude? There is no rhyme or reason. They, and you, can read what we think when Franchising Report 2014 is published later this month. And maybe next year we’ll get some straight answers, first time around.

 Rupert Saunders

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