Opinion: Auto companies fail to embrace new technology

Editor’s note: The following is a response to “Dealer Competition, not Tesla monopoly, benefits car buyers” written by Bobbi Sparrow and posted earlier this month online.

I appreciate Ms. Sparrow’s lack of enthusiasm for the Tesla concept of selling new cars. I agree it was tried years ago and it certainly failed — but the auto industry is not known for embracing anything quickly.

I met with Ford, Chrysler and GM senior executives in the early 1970s and asked about what they thought about small cars. I was assured that they had tried the Pinto and the Corvair and that all the U.S. wanted was big American Cars. Well, we know how that ended up with the auto business moving offshore ( so I guess American consumers did want small fuel efficient cars after all).

Then there is the debacle the auto industry got into when the government had to bail out GM, and Chrysler was sold to Fiat. The only U.S. auto company that did not take a penny from the government and stayed profitable was Ford because they went outside the hallowed halls of the U.S. auto industry and brought a new CEO from Boeing with new ideas.

Look, there is a new force moving things quickly and it is called technology. If you need an clear example of how a disruptive technology can be effective, just look at UBER and see how that has impacted the current taxi companies.

Things are moving quickly, robably faster than ever before and I would not bet on U.S. auto companies to stay abreast of the changes taking place. Just look at the pathetic offerings of U.S. auto companies in the hybrid or the electric vehicle market — a very poor showing. Again, change surprised them and it will again.

The motto is innovate or lose the race.

I can see Ms. Sparrow’s pointing out the tax revenues that dealerships provide, all of which gets the politicians interested, but it will not save the current automotive distribution model. Just ask the taxi companies.

To be fair, I have owned two Teslas and our sons each have one and it is our favorite car. Frankly, the buying experience was easy, convenient and fast. No closing rooms and nobody trying to upsell you — all of which takes hours and frankly most folks do not enjoy that process when buying a vehicle.

So the message is innovate or get displaced. Are there any taxi companies still around? I use UBER all over the world.

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