In his outgoing remarks as 2018 NADA Chairman, Wes Lutz encouraged America’s franchised auto dealers to continue embracing change, listening to their customers and writing the narrative about the future of the auto retail industry.
Lutz, president of Extreme Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Jackson, Mich., led NADA during a year in which U.S. new-vehicle sales again topped 17 million units even as some continued to predict an eventual end to personal vehicle ownership.
“As I traveled around the world in 2018, my biggest takeaway was this: So many people want to write our narrative. They say that dealers are fighting the inevitable, that change is coming and we don’t like it,” Lutz said in his keynote speech at the 2019 NADA Show in San Francisco. “The truth is that we love change. Change is not happening fast enough for us. Dealers aren’t fighting the future, we’re writing it.”
“Someone needs to let Silicon Valley and Wall Street know what the customer is actually thinking. Well, allow me to tell them,” Lutz said. “People prize convenience above all else. People value freedom above all else. The ability to just get up and go without waiting for anyone is a luxury that people don’t want to give up – they can’t afford to. Which is why people have very little interest in giving up their keys, despite what Wall Street or Silicon Valley says.”
“Simply put, our customers are not going to change their entire lifestyle just to fit someone’s narrative. And they’re certainly not going to stop driving and owning their own vehicles just because someone on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley wants them to,” Lutz said.
In October 2018, Lutz spoke to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, and challenged the auto press to “question the hype” about the future of personal transportation in the U.S. – including false narratives that ride-hailing services are preferable to personal vehicle ownership because they are less expensive.
“Wall Street claimed that owning a car costs more in the long run than using Uber or Lyft. Do you know what the reality is? If you rely solely on ride-hailing services to get around, it will cost you twice as much as owning a personal vehicle,” Lutz reminded the more than 22,000 attendees at the 2019 NADA Show.
“We must always question predictions about our industry, especially when our customers are telling us something different,” Lutz continued. “So keep writing this script, continue searching for a better customer experience, and keep defining this industry. You always have.”