I don’t know anything about making or selling cars, but I know how to fix all the problems everyone is having, so I will tell you. For free, even. You don’t even have to make me a Czar in the federal government.
Stop thinking business. Just stop. You’re ruining everything and embarrassing yourself.
Toyota made a big announcement that they were going to sell more cars than anybody. Nice move. Now they are eating muda. Who cares how many cars you sell? Customers? Or businessmen?
I don’t mean that car companies can just shut the lights off in accounting and stop worrying about business fundamentals like making more money than you spend. Everyone knows the American car companies are being cannibalized by the auto workers’ unions, through a combination of demands and protections and commitments to past workers. The unions do not have to worry about the company making more money than it spends–not directly, anyway. And a business needs to focus on very simply, very directly, making more money than it spends.
One thing I will never understand is why car manufacturers pay car retailers to sell their cars. I mean, I understand it this far: whoever sells the most cars is the most winningest car maker so the stock market is supposed to favor their stock and drive up profits for executive compensation plans. And there is probably something going on where they get to report the “market value” of their vehicles is so sweet based on the price the dealer pays, before the manufacturer rebates them money. But it’s sick, it’s perverse. Just sell the darn thing for less money. Done.
Into this world of stupidity storms VW, who, according to BusinessWeek, “built more cars than its Japanese rival. Toyota still sells more each year.” If you didn’t catch that, read it again. Did you find the stupid yet? Why are they building more cars if they aren’t selling more cars?
But VW has a secret plan to brainwash all Americans into buying their cars. Here it is (still from BusinessWeek): “VW plans to stretch the Passat’s successor four inches, add three inches of legroom, and sell it for a starting price of about $20,000.” There. I bet that made you want one, didn’t it? Those are just some numbers that you can measure and compare so you can compare some numbers on your PowerPoint slide for your stockholders so they will know you are improving. It worked on the BusinessWeek writer, who thinks that because VW spent a lot of money in important markets and plans to sell cars cheap (no word on whether they will actually cost less to make, or if VW can achieve the price targets), VW is on the road to dethrone Toyota. For most cars sold. By giving people money to buy the car with.
A business plan to sell more cars is fundamentally a stupid business plan. There are lots of ways to sell more cars without getting people to actually want your car, as we have been seeing in these past few years. A common strategy is “Look. It’s shiny. And you don’t have to give me any money for it, until later, when you get rich.” Sold a lotta cars that way, oddly enough.
For the car business to become healthier, and not simply faster moving, car manufacturers have to stop looking at new vehicles sold and start looking at used vehicles sold; stop looking at new models introduced and start looking at the number of years a model is owned; stop watching people who buy new cars ever year, according to their whims, and start watching people who actually take their cars in for repair. They need to stop thinking quarterly business results and start thinking about making the car the most useful for the longest amount of time.
I’ll elaborate more later.