Carmakers’ sperimentations whilst thousands of dealers are drowning!


New scenarios for Italian dealers: the debarkation of Penske Automotive Group in Italy put in motion many brains and overheated … some phones.

Carmakers and associations estimate that 1.000 dealers will go out of the business in Italy in 2012 . How to save these companies from the wreck? Federauto – the italian dealers association – has clear ideas: “it is necessary to ask incentives to the Government!”…

Are the automobiles dealers living in another world ? ! ?

Inflation, new taxes, poverty and the higher unemployment after the WW2 are distressing the Italian citizens. It does not matter if the Highway Company signals the collapse of highway passages; who cares if the Industrials Associations confirm that orders are falling? Also the consumption of food is falling down!


The italian automobiles market has gone back to the numbers of the seventies, loosing millions of sales: from 2.400.000 registrations developed few years ago, down to 1.400.000 expected in 2012. The Trucks market has lost more than 75% in the last 4 years.

Industrial and economists are convinced that through excellence Italy can get out; dealers instead think to shake off the crisis by delivering a handful of money to those who would buy a car. Right now that access to credit for private and companies is NIL!

525 dealers have closed down in 2011; other 1,000 will close in 2012. How many are the Italian dealers now? The dealers association says 3,800. The carmakers association UNRAE replies that the dealers are 3,050. The dealers of trucks today are less than 190… only 4 years ago they were 450.

In my opinion, rather than “receive incentives” for non-existent potential customers, more than a dealer should be “encouraged” to see better what is happening in his own dealership business!

It is inconceivable to see some dealers who work without clear processes: they do not know the obsolescence of spare parts stock (maybe not “want” to know), that does not depreciate the used cars stock (maybe not “may” devalue), who owns preowned cars from 8 years or Km Zero vehicles (one day cars) since 4 years, and which do nothing to cultivate the Customer Care or does not follow-up a customer after a negotiation.

Or is surprising to know that other dealers accept the whims of a salesman, of a shrewd service manager, or of a dishonest warehouseman, without finding the courage to part with them!

ENG dealer chiusi

These are the dealers needed by the carmakers? These are dealers who the Banks are financing?

I know hundreds of talented and capable Dealers, but the data published by “Italia Bilanci“, mystery shopping actions, and targeted visits show that this is not the norm.

Someone is experimenting with new forms of distribution. ‘Listening’ rumors circulating in the corridors of the builders and interviewing some international operator is already clear that something is changing! The changes in the BER will renew the dialogue between carmakers and “cancelled” dealers – who are working (to thousands) without a contract or a letter of intent – encouraging innovation and experimentation.

More than a manufacturer is “bored” by the immobility of his dealers and – even in Italy – some of them are already testing new experimental models for the automotive distribution.


Models that ‘might’ even disregard the presence of the Dealer. Models which ‘might’ provide for a greater involvement of the authorized facilities which – recently – are mainly managed directly by manufacturers.

Someone – after having favored disposals and mergers, and after the crisis of some large groups – returns to appoint small familial dealers, selling 10 cars per month, located right where the customers are: everywhere!

In some big cities have appeared agile “neighborhood dealerships” that allow optimum coverage of the territory, reduced costs for dealer and manufacturer, and permit an excellent customer satisfaction. Elsewhere they are testing the “door-to-door dealership” and, with special equipped vans, they develop sales and service directly at the customers’ home.

Where Car-Sharing is used… someone manages thousands of vehicles.


STOP thinking to the salesman as an ‘artist’ with no rules, STOP focusing only on new car sales, STOP playing it by ear… leaving to the carmakers the task of determining the route. Who does not evolve,will die!

Business is business, nothing personal!

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  1. Harri says:

    Hi Maurizio,
    If what I am thinking that you are saying is that unless the dealers do not accept the realities of today’s challenges, they will be out of business sooner rather than later, then you are 100% right. I happen to be in Finland right now, working with dealers, but my own sales and sales management experience comes from, by and large, US. And while I must admit, these trends that you are talking about, are pretty universal, you can find the same things going on in any country, including US. However, the selling systems that are available in US are by far the best in the business. And mind you, it is not because the people out there are supposedly smarter than the rest of the world, no not at all, it is because the US has had such a favorable environment for hundreds of years, during which they were able to cultivate and build good selling systems.

    Some of the dealers that I have worked with here in Finland, are now getting up to 50% better results, mainly because they installed a sales system. The basic components of a sales system are; complete sales department analysis, hiring of new sales people and training. In a system, sales people are trained to do things in a certain way – the so called “artists” are not allowed to do things any differently, or they will be shown the door. Once you get 80% of your people aligned with the system, things will invariably improve, it is basically guaranteed to succeed.

    However, it does take some courage from a dealer, this is not something that dealers are used to, especially here in Europe, where the dealers are, unfortunately, mostly playing into the hands of solo “artists” rather than team effort.

    Good luck, I hope your message gets wide acceptance, because it really is that important.

  2. Maurizio Sala says:

    @ Harry!

    Thanks so much for your great contribution!

    YES, YES, YES!

    No other words should to be added to your cynical, clear, real comment.

    Want to amuse with other situations I observed inside the dealerships?

    Have a look to this link, please:



  3. Maurizio Sala says:

    I received dozens of positive contributions regarding this article.

    @ Mike – US
    The car makers have found many ways to sell cars without factory-owned dealers. We seem to have a mix at this time, but biggest dealers are independent, selling many types of new cars and a separate lot for used cars.
    I have no idea where this is going, or how Italy will have to adapt. And now the transition to e-cars and natural-gas trucks.
    Sorry I have no good ideas. But nobody can live in the past, we are adaptive learning systems, or we move out of the way for others that are more adaptive.

    @ Byung – US
    US 50 States-EU 28/Euro 17/Europe 31 to combines debts more than $32 trillion dollars, nearly about 50% of GGDP, equivalent to entire global annual trading, about quarter of entire worldwide wealth assets, more than 75% global broad markets-worldwide auto sales approximation 78.5 million units(annual average about nearly 100 million units), involving with about 95 countries automobiles exports/imports… This isn’t Cynicism…

    @ Fidel
    What amazing challenge!! Think different is what really make the diference!
    Good Luck!

    Thanks to ALL the contributors, please share with friends and colleagues the Automotive Space articles you enjoyed!

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