Photograph by Frederic Lewis/Getty Images

Evolution of Selling Cars

  1. The Birth of the Dealership

    The Birth of the Dealership

    This 1920 dealership for Packard was situated in a muddy lot behind the wooden bleachers of a stadium. Franchised dealerships in the U.S. got their start at the turn of the century and grew rapidly as manufacturers gave each owner a regional license to sell a brand.
    Photograph by Frederic Lewis/Getty Images
  2. Rapid Growth

    Rapid Growth

    Car sales tripled to 6.7 million units in 1953, the year this photo was taken. Big sales leaps required an accompanying rise in dealers to sell them and real estate for dealerships.

    Photograph by Charles Rotkin//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
  3. Promoting That New Car Smell

    Promoting That New Car Smell

    As volume grew, dealers become savvier about creating exciting experiences around purchases. At this Ford dealership in 1955, the staff wrapped a Lincoln Continental in a bow to signal a rite of passage.

    Photograph by Yale Joel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
  4. The Hard Sell

    The Hard Sell

    Because of the gas shortage, this 1974 Pontiac dealership may have lowered the prices on its largest cars to get them off the lot. One complaint that buyers often have about dealers is the lack of transparency in pricing—is “$100 under cost” really what it says?

    Photograph by Andrew Sacks//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
  5. Destination Dealerships

    Destination Dealerships

    The JM Lexus dealership in Margate, Fla., outside Fort Lauderdale opened its own 3,200-square-foot rooftop putting green in 2011. The highest-volume Lexus dealer in the world, JM Lexus is a good example of the company’s strategy of matching good customer service with fun amenities. Other Lexus lots boast their own wine cellars, coffee bars, shoeshine stands, and luxury clothing stores.

    Courtesy JM Lexus
  6. Taking Cues From Retail

    Taking Cues From Retail

    This showroom, owned by electric-car manufacturer Tesla, was finished in 2008 with the help of CCS Architecture, with the unprecedented move of placing the sales and service departments in the same room. Tesla’s retail strategy has been led by its vice president of sales and ownership experience, George Blankenship, a former Apple exec who helped launch the Apple Stores.

    Photograph by Eric Laignel via CCS Architecture