Recently, I was in Arkansas to meet a potential customer about an auction. The man had been in the car business for over 75 years and was a casualty of the fall of GM and Chrysler.
I pulled up to the dealership and walked into the showroom of what once used to be a thriving dealership, now was full of boxes and outdated equipment and piles and piles of papers. In his office, was a proud Mopar man and his dog waiting for me.
I sat down with my notebook and took notes as a listened to the story how this man was one of the area’s biggest dealers and selling pickup and cars to friends, neighbors and servicing his territory. Then, a little choked up, the tone changed and he told me how he got that phone call and “they pulled the plug.” You could see the life not only drained from the dealership, but somewhat of the essence of my dealer.
While we were walking around looking at old parts, outdated equipment, old inventory and vintage cars, it was amazing that through all this man went through, he was still “Brand Loyal” to Chrysler. To me, it was just like a man whose wife walked out on him, and deep down he would still take her back. You could tell that he would, gladly take that car dealership life back again, in a heartbeat. The thrill of the sale still was in his blood, after all this heart break.
I’ve met with other dealers that were a passenger on this “bad boat ride” and they still carried the flag for the brand they used to sell. Its does seem amazing, and the heartache is there, but they all would take them back. I have also met with some other customers and collectors that now have switched to Ford, because they “didn’t take a handout or government money.” I’ve heard some of them proudly exclaim, “Nobody bailed me out. When I had a bad year. That’s just business. You change your game plan.”
But at the same time, I’ve driven through Indiana and parts of Ohio and seen rows and rows of mid-range homes empty, because the jobs left with the bail out and re-organization. As a broker, I wondered, where did all those people go?
It was a bad chain reaction that fed from the car makers, dealers, down to Main Street. Small towns throughout America were affected by board room decisions. Lives turned upside down.
There are car collectors who are still Brand Royal. I have a friend Lloyd May, he’s Ford Blue right down to his underwear and I’m sure that if you cut him open, he'd bleed blue and his heart would be shaped like a blue oval. My Dad, when I a couple of years ago traded a Ford pickup for a GMC, (a heck of a deal from Billions) told me, “Now you got a better truck.” And that same night, Lloyd called and said, “Girl, you bought a GMC and traded your Ford?”
It just goes to show you, brand loyalty runs deep.
For me, I love them all – Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler – and enjoy seeing my bidders thrilled when they win the bid on a car they admire. For whatever reason, they all have their own. Cars make the world go round, no matter what flavor you're loyal to.
VanDerBrink Auctions, LLC
The Li’ Nordstrom’s Gal