Just because theyâ€™re introducing a new approach to presenting price/tradein/financing options to a buyer doesnâ€™t seem to be a compelling reason to change the name of the business. Thereâ€™s a host of expense and planning required to change the name (and probably some trade dress as well) for over 250 dealerships.
No, I suspect AutoNation felt their reputation was in some way tarnished and that a name change could change the reigning perceptions and boost sales and profits.
I donâ€™t think that strategy works very well. Old brands tend to linger, particularly with folks who have had disappointing experiences with the dealership. Every time they drive by a location in which theyâ€™ve had a problem, that memory comes back no matter that a new sign bedecks the facade. And a bad experience at one shop lingers for the other shops bearing the same name.
I believe most people think a business thatâ€™s re-branding itself is doing so because it wants to rid itself of a bad reputation. I also believe people believe that only the nameâ€™s been changed. That applies also to businesses that have been sold and now â€œunder new managementâ€. Do we really believe anythingâ€™s changed? I expect the old reputation lingers, sometimes for years.
So what could AutoNation have done to redeem its reputation and sales volume? The best strategy I believe is to â€œfess upâ€. Admit their business practices were not â€œcustomer friendlyâ€, that their people were not encouraged to be customer advocates. In short, be honest and candid. Demonstrate through this action that they have now adopted a new way of doing business.
The publicity alone would be invaluable.
So often a name change is a cover up. But if the elephant is still in the room, elephant shit is sure to follow.