Why car shopping is so bizarre in the United States

Consider that for a moment. You don't go to Whirlpool, Maytag, and Bosch to buy a refrigerator. You go to a store. And even if a business only sells items from one firm, like Gap, that store is owned and run by Gap.

But if you want a new car, you have to go to other stores. But neither Ford nor Toyota owns the stores. They're owned by other corporations, big and small, but rarely by the one whose name is on the front door.

Even worse, opening a storefront and selling directly to people is forbidden in many US states. It's prohibited almost everywhere in America for an established automaker to do this.

Understanding why Americans purchase and sell automobiles unlike other things involves a look back at the industry's early, chaotic and terrible days.

Bertha Benz drove her husband Karl's Benz Patent Motorwagen about Mannheim, Germany, receiving orders from inquisitive passers-by. Sears sold the Sears Motor Buggy via mail order for a period.

Some firms even offered automobiles by the month. Customers may order pieces one at a time and create their own automobile over months.Entreprenuers become full-time vehicle dealers.

A major concern throughout the first decade or so of the American automobile industry, according to Matt Anderson, transportation curator at The Henry Ford Museum. "What is the greatest way to sell cars? And everything was tried."

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