Historians have put the story to bed and closed the book. I say, however, that only the most ignorant and naïve among us could actually believe that a lone gunman — particularly a bitter, delusional nutcase like Lee Harvey Oswald — could have pulled off the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I just read some interesting memoirs on the topic. Some suggest Kennedy’s widow, Jackie Onassis, actually believed Vice President-turned-President Lyndon Johnson was behind the plot until the day she died. Others say the fact that Oswald himself was killed by Jack Ruby, a low-level Mafia associate, means Kennedy must have had some run-ins with mob bosses.
Others point to the fact that Oswald had recently visited Cuba. They believe Fidel Castro, who had a huge score to settle with Kennedy, ordered the hit. When Orleans Parish District Attorney Jim Garrison attempted to prosecute New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, he blamed the assassination on a conspiracy among Shaw, local anti-Castro activists and rogue CIA agents.
Shaw was the only person prosecuted in the case, and he was acquitted in 1969. So the question remains: Who killed Kennedy? At this point, the answer is: What difference does it make? He’s dead and so are all the suspects.
Well, I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops, screaming loudly so everyone will listen: There’s an assassination conspiracy plot taking shape as you read these words, and the intended victim is the American car dealer.
The race to be the first to kill the dealerships is hanging over the industry like a trophy. The only stumbling block facing the competitors is that nobody has successfully found a way to fully automate the sales and finance processes online. Yes, it’s possible, but I believe only a small fraction of consumers will pull the trigger and finalize a totally online transaction.
The reason none of the manufacturers and vendors have been successful with online volume sales is because they are operating on false assumptions and flawed paradigms. In other words, they don’t understand consumers and what actually motivates them to make a buying decision.
See, the conspirators think car buyers hate the process. Personally, I think they love to hate it. In fact, I recall a cab driver once telling me that a certain dealer was a crook. “They abuse, gouge and mistreat their customers,” he said. I listened patiently until he concluded with, “I’ve bought three cars from them. I know how they treat people.”
A popular line among the conspirators is that millennials are tired of your crap and won’t buy cars if you don’t change your process to suit them. The latest commercial from Carvana, “That Didn’t Suck,” is the perfect illustration.
The commercial opens with a bearded, kimono-clad hipster completing a purchase on the online retailer’s site. He is so excited that he jumps up on the couch and breaks into song. “That didn’t suck. In fact, I liked it!” he cries, before running into the streets, where a singing, dancing, ethnically diverse troupe (and a stereotypical car salesman) await. They keep singing “That didn’t suck,” but they obviously aren’t referring to their commercial, because it definitely does.
This year’s National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention featured a presentation from Alain Visser, who is with Geely, the Chinese manufacturer that wholly owns Volvo. The company is launching a new brand of car, “Lynk & Co.,” it intends to market directly to the public, following the Tesla blueprint. Throughout his entire presentation — and at a series of auto shows he presented at leading up to it — he showed pure contempt for dealers and manufacturers alike.
He’s not alone. The conspirators are many, and they are dedicated to taking over the industry. In the end, they will fail, because regardless of the lies they tell, nobody can automate F&I and make a profit at it. Dream on, snowflakes. That ain’t gonna happen.
So who killed the American car dealer? Nobody has and nobody will. We will change and we will adapt and we will prevail. The attack by formerly trusted vendors, manufacturers and trainers will not succeed. So get back to work, but keep an eye on the grassy knoll.
Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Contact him at [email protected].