IT’S HARD TO SHAKE THE DEAL

You need to listen to the customer and sell the values of the product.

In the retail automobile business, that seems more important now than ever.

But as we dig and claw our way back from the recession and see sales volume increasing every month, an ugly part of the business is sneaking back into the sales equation.

Every month, sales numbers are higher than they were the month before. Every month, someone says the annualized sales rate is higher than it was the month before. Business seems to be getting better.

But all the things that auto dealers learned when supplies were tight and grosses were high seem to have gone out the window.

All of a sudden -- or maybe not so suddenly -- we are selling the deal.

It's as if all the precepts we were taught when we started in the business are gone. Price is all that matters. If we're going for volume, we've got to make the best deal possible.

The factories aren't being much help these days. But they have their own objectives that also involve volume. Factories throw out their special deals of the month or week or whenever.

Something in the DNA of the retail business always seems to come back to price and the deal.

Look at most of the advertising and marketing in the United States, and you'll realize that consumers like to know the price or the lease terms or the payments, but what they really want is the deal.

This might be unique to the United States. Few other places emphasize price as much as we do. Maybe that's one reason it's almost impossible to formulate a global marketing strategy.

American buyers want instant gratification and aren't interested in waiting a few weeks to have cars built to their specifications. They want them now.

And when they pick out cars, they don't want to wait around for long. They want all the paperwork done in about the same time it takes to check out of the local big-box store.

Here's the bottom line: If the deal works, and the customer wants the deal, why change?