Honda’s U.S. Segment is off to a strong start in 2023, with record-breaking EV sales and impressive year-over-year growth for the first quarter. But how do things look for dealers on the ground? On this edition of Inside Automotive, CBT News anchor Jim Fitzpatrick is joined once again by Bill Feinstein, president of Planet Honda in New Hampshire, general manager of Planet Honda in New Jersey, and the chairman of the Honda National Dealer Advisory Board.
Having a balanced automotive market is essential for security, notes Feinstein. “I do think that the industry is healthier when we are building not to capacity, [but] we are building to demand,” he explains. While vehicle surpluses and deficits can work in a dealer’s favor depending on economic factors, the fact remains that overproduction and underproduction create long-term problems for retailers and manufacturers alike due to price fluctuations and shifts in consumer demand. Feinstein comments that Japanese brands such as Toyota and Honda have done an excellent job maintaining appropriate supply levels throughout the COVID pandemic.
As chairman of the Honda National Dealer Advisory Board, Feinstein plans to focus on improving the relationship between retailers and OEMs. Automakers often introduce ideas or solutions to their franchisees with the expectation that store owners will agree. While this comes from a desire to help, it can hinder progress if the brand fails to account for the dealership’s perspective. “I find when the manufacturer and the dealers are able to address problems together, we mostly find common ground…but when one of us comes with a solution, the other party goes, ‘Wait a second, have you thought about this?'”
While many dealers have reached different levels of success through digital retail, Feinstein notes that his businesses have seen incredible growth through their online sales platform. “Digital retail is here to stay,” he remarks, although he admits that technology, legislation and demand have yet to fully mature. While some store owners are worried that internet-based purchases will make dealerships obsolete, Feinstein notes that consumers still value the hands-on car buying experience. He envisions a hybrid of the two, where buyers handle test-drives and purchases in-store, but complete delivery and price negotiations online.