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Auto Dealership Branding - STOP THE CHAOS!

August 6th, 2007 by Chief Nut

It seems that a few of my esteemed brand colleagues are a bit beyond fed up with lousy branding in the world of automobile dealerships. Here are the opinions of some of the Branding Wire Crew; Drew Mclellan, Martin Jelsema, Olivier Blanchard , Steve Woodruff, Valeria Maltoni, Becky Carroll, Patrick Schaber, Lewis Green … and now here’s my spin:

Let me preface my piece with a little bit about my background. In my former life, prior to starting my brand agency, I was employed at a national health and safety company that catered to (get this) automobile dealerships. Over the course of almost a decade I had visited and provided ongoing services to several hundred car dealers. I think I’ve seen or heard everything that can possibly happen in a dealership and some of the stories I have would curl your hair! Let’s just say there’s a reason for all those rumors and the stigma’s are not baseless. However, there are some really great companies out there who are trying to break out of the stereotypes and I commend them for their efforts. Sadly, they’re stuck in an industry with some horrific brand problems.

I’ll keep my comment(s) short with a suggestion for a field trip.

Try this; First go to a typical auto dealer franchise where price negotiation is part of the process and try to get a good deal on a vehicle. Any line will do … Ford, Chevy, Toyota, your choice. THEN go to a Saturn dealership. I’m not saying that Saturn is a better car or that they offer more value. For this exercise, these issues are irrelevant. The only comment I’m making is that they’ve removed the pain of barter-friction from their sales process. Ask anyone who has ever bought a Saturn and you’ll get a completely different view of their brand experience to any other franchise. This is a BIG DEAL! The most important and critical concept for creating great brand is knowing that you’re connecting with people. Miss that and you’re doomed.

Yes, there’s more to industry-wide bad branding than this one topic of price bartering … let’s not forget; bad advertising, hard selling, shady ethics, confrontational attitudes, poor creatives, and LOUDNESS… the list goes on and on.

A trip of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I look forward to a handful of dealerships (or whole franchises) that take Saturn’s lead and break out of the bad-dealership-brand mold.

Full disclosure: Until 18 months ago, when I bought a new GMC Envoy, my two previous cars were Saturns. My next car will also likely be a Saturn … yes, because of the experience in dealing with their courteous dealership staff during; the sales process, routine maintenance, roadside assistance, etc. You’ve just gotta love brand-based purchasing decisions!


  1. [...] Also, Chris Brown decided to jump right in with a post of her own on this theme, as did Acorn Creative (both praising the Saturn customer experience). [...]

    Pingback by Auto Sales - It’s the Dealer’s Dozen Summer Blowout!! « The BrandingWire blog — August 7, 2007 @ 7:01 am

  2. Thanks for the additional perspective! I’m glad you were able to highlight a success story. Thanks for contributing.

    Comment by Patrick Schaber — August 7, 2007 @ 7:08 am

  3. Thank you for sharing your insights and for the shout out.

    Comment by Lewis Green — August 8, 2007 @ 8:53 am

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