We're sympathetic to Tom Pappert and to the plight of hundreds of Chrysler dealers who lost their franchises in 2009 amid the worst of economic times. They were driven out of a business they loved and a livelihood that bound them to their communities.
But those are the battles of the past. And there are more than enough battles for the future that should command auto dealers' attention. Among them: online and mobile shopping, electrification, upheaval in the broader retail sector, demographic shifts and generational turnover, digital marketing, autonomous driving, urbanization, alternative ownership models and the mobility movement.
In the face of these disruptive forces, today's auto dealers operate from a position of relative security. Unlike record stores or typewriter repair shops, they are protected by franchise laws and other legal safeguards that more or less enshrine their right to stay in business. They need to compete with one another, but as a segment, they face no existential threat. Yet.
Which makes this a good time to confront change head-on, through relentless experimentation, innovation and bold thinking.
Hyundai is showing how with Shopper Assurance, which promises more price transparency and faster transaction times, zeroing in on customers' primary pet peeves.
Cadillac has been trying to make progress with Project Pinnacle, which envisioned virtual-reality technology as a substitute for stocking inventory. Will it work? Let's find out.
Lamborghini Broward in Florida is taking the elitism out of exotics, indulging the fantasies of children who just want to sit for a few minutes at the wheel of a supercar.
Prime Motors is enlisting a new capital partner, so it can play offense, rather than defense, against the full range of changes facing the industry.
"With everything going on in the automotive business today," says dealer David Rosenberg, the principal at Prime, "you need to be super aggressive."
Clawing back Chrysler dealerships. Fending off Tesla. Those are the battles of the past. The future will belong to the brands and businesses that recognize this era of disruption as a profound opportunity, if not an emergency.