THE GOOD OL' DAYS
Another Year Says Goodbye...
A Look at 1939
Federal Trade Commission report on automobile retailing (500,000 words) blasted both factories and dealers, the factories on contractual relations with dealers and the dealers on unfair treatment of consumers.
Cut-throat competition for volume, with wild trading and long cash discounts, wiped out many dealers' profits while one and two-year-old used cars froze their working capital.
Car and truck registrations passed 30,000,000 for the first time in history.
Headlighting was revolutionized by industry-wide adoption of the new Sealed Beam lamp, with lens, reflector and light source assembled and sealed in a single unit.
War scares and battles between Big Business and the New Deal were almost continuous, with war as the climax.
Round table conference" myth was exploded - the theory that representatives of all factories would sit down with representatives of all dealers to determine industry policies.
Disciplined selling on the basis of monthly and even weekly and daily analyses of sales and costs gained ground among jobbers.
Bank competition with finance companies threatened destruction of the present system under which dealers obtain credit for wholesale purchases of automobiles.
Agitation for state licensing of automobile dealers died out and the Wisconsin law on the subject ran on the rocks.
Glass and chemical manufacturers developed windshields and windows that "stretch", minimizing accident possibilities.
Replacement parts business had one of its biggest years, spurring car makers to intensified efforts for a larger share and independent manufacturers and jobbers to aggressive defensive measures.
Stabilized conditions in installment financing of shop equipment purchases supported steady progress in modernization of service stations.
The gas tank, grease gun and lift gained further importance as the most effective cultivators of service business.
Dealers' city and state associations, with a few exceptions, slipped fast, because of lack of interest and curtailed or wholly lost revenues from shows.
Highway safety education, improved traffic systems and better enforcement were credited with a fatality toll below last year's despite a heavy increase in travel.
Retail price structure collapsed. Retail buyers were "rooked" on finance packs and pads in delivered prices.
National Automobile Dealers Association adopted one-plank platform - federal regulation of factory sales methods.
Mufflers became an almost-top line in replacement parts, lacquer in service materials.
Sentiment gained ground for a single national association of automotive wholesalers and another of manufacturers supplying them.
Automotive jobbers continued branch expansion, especially man-and-a-boy operated counter stores.
Upcoming in 1940
United States Supreme Court probably will be asked to decide whether automobile retailing is interstate commerce, with portentious results for all divisions of the industry if the vote is in the affirmative.
State regulation of the automobile trade for the benefit of consumers is a strong possibility.
Litigation in process suggested the possibility that sales control of dealers by car and tire manufacturers, oil refiners and others might be banned under chain store tax laws in numerous states.
Factory "packing" of freight charges will be aired before the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Published in the January 1939 MoToR Magazine (Trade journal for car dealers). Reproduced by permission. Visit www.motor.com