Auto manufacturers should start helping their dealers sell more cars or future sales and profits will decline, a local industry spokesman said.
Preston Kearsley, president of the Utah Automobile Dealers Association, said sales people need training from the manufacturer of the product they sell, just as mechanics do in order to fix them."The manufacturers have built such a complicated machine they will have to help dealers down the road in training and preparing salespeople," he said.
He explained that manufacturers offer training to their service departments, while the sales force is left to its own resources.
Adding to the potential problem are increasingly sophisticated consumers, who know what they want in a car and financing before they meet the sales person.
Kearsley's plea echoes that of incoming president of the National Association of Automobile Dealers, Ron Tonkin, a dealer in Portland, Ore.
In an interview with Associated Press, Tonkin said, "Dealers have been a whipping boy for the manufacturers long enough. We feel very testy about the fact that in 1987, when auto makers were making big profits, dealers' profits were down 12 percent. There has got to be some equity in this equation."
In Utah, 73,457 new cars and trucks were sold in 1987, compared to 75,474 sold in 1986. Figures for 1988 are not available, but Kearsley said the year was an improvement over 1987.
In addition to more training - recommendation of dealers nationwide - Tonkin suggested requiring auto makers paying for space on a dealerships floor, like food makers pay for shelf space at a supermarket.
Kearsley doubted the day would ever come when manufacturers buy space at a dealership.
"It's difficult to tell manufacturers what to do and how to do it. But, if anyone can, Tonkin has the nerve and courage to do it."
Utah dealerships are recovering from the 1987 drop in sales, Kearsley said, but auto makers, which are making most of the money, have yet to provide a way for dealers to make money too.
"The manufacturer hasn't given dealers the margins they used to have," Kearsley said.
He explained that if manufacturers don't provide more help and incentives, dealers will have to pick up the load, causing an additional squeeze on profits.
"It's hypothetical at this point, but it's a possibility," he said.