February saw the first-ever used-car price decline, according to several industry experts. But this year tax season has been off because the IRS is scrutinizing returns more than ever. So the record decline was probably a fluke. But the overall downward trend is real.
Much is made of the need to restore America's manufacturing sector. But even if that were possible, it wouldn't be enough to revitalize much of the country. Yes, we used to be a nation that made things, but we were also a nation that sold things. Today, traditional retailers are falling fast. Sears, to no one's surprise, said there is "substantial doubt" about its future. Main Street needs stores, but Washington and Wall Street favor online retailers. Wall Street feeds them capital while Washington takes a hands off approach, not even making them pay sales tax.
I don't support overregulation of online enterprises. I just support an even playing field. You can achieve that by reducing the burden on traditional retailers.
Passtime co-founder Stan Schwarz passed away last week and unfortunately it happened at a time when the industry he helped create is facing a flurry of bad press. One of the worst attacks comes from CBS News, which offers a sob story about a family left stranded at a dialysis center. Another story referred to payment-assurance devices as new technology. That would have been news to Stan, since his company entered the market 20 years ago. The New Jersey legislature recently passed new rules for the use of these devices and it was only the efforts of several industry trade groups that kept these rules from making the devices unusable. Dealers who use these devices need to keep a look out for such legislation in their states.
The other day I blogged about how car dealers were taking the place of traditional retailers at sites across the country. Now I read about a VW dealer who is building a used-car operation on property that once housed a strip mall.
I also wrote recently about the rash of crimes at dealerships and how to protect yourself. Neither Joe Lescota, the expert interviewed for the piece, or I thought we had to warn dealers not to leave unlocked cars running on their lots, but as somebody once said about idiot-proof plans, the idiot always finds a way.