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Megatrends, magnified

The Great Recession sped up practices already in place


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Article Highlights

  1. Dale Pollak has had a front-row view of the changes in auto retailing before, during and since the recession.
  2. The main changes Pollak recalled centered on the used-car and fixed ops departments, as well as how dealerships dealt with the Internet.
  3. ...when the downturn hit and new-car sales collapsed, dealers realized they had to refocus on the operations that actually brought in profits, Pollak said. Used cars were at the top of the list.

Crises spur change. Just as technical advances explode (often literally) during a war, the Great Recession accelerated trends in auto retailing that were slowly percolating previously.

Take online used-vehicle auctions. Travel is one of the first budget items cut in bad times. When the economy nose-dived, used-vehicle buyers at dealerships across the country were told to curtail trips to out-of-state auctions.

Many buyers had already dabbled in online auctions. Some were already proficient at it. But almost all buyers had to learn, fast, how to find and acquire the cars and trucks they needed online.

This trend really picked up speed in the last two or three years, when a flood of off-lease vehicles prompted all parties — buyers and sellers — to do all they could to move those units online before the tsunami could clog the auction lanes. But that was only possible because buyers became comfortable with online buying in 2009 to 2010.

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