There has been a lot of disruption in retail automotive over the past few years, yet dealers have adapted and remained resilient. Today on Inside Automotive, Jim Fitzpatrick speaks with Dr. Evelyn Cardenas, President and CEO of the Central Florida Automobile Dealers Association. They discuss the association’s goals for 2022 and how central Florida car dealers manage the current economic climate.

The market in Central Florida is hot, says Cardenas. Sales for both new and used vehicles have accelerated, and it’s an excellent time to be a car dealer if you can get your hands on inventory. Everyone has concerns about high gas prices, inflation, and rising interest rates, but at the end of the day, wages are going up, and demand is still strong. Central Florida is growing by leaps and bounds, explains Cardenas. It is one of the top travel destinations in the country, and mobility companies are moving to the region quickly. 

“One thing about dealers is that they’re resilient. They’re a little slow to adapt sometimes, but they’re very resilient, and whatever the market throws at them, they’re going to survive,” says Cardenas. 

Florida is currently second nation for electric vehicle sales, but Cardenas doesn’t look at electrification from an all-or-nothing perspective. She believes a hybrid solution is possible, where alternative fuel vehicles and ICE autos can coexist harmoniously. State and local governments are also boosting the necessary infrastructure in Central Florida to accommodate the increased demand. 

The rise of electric vehicles is at the crux of a significant initiative Cardenas and CFADA are focusing on. Servicing electric cars in the future will become more challenging if the shortage of auto technicians is not addressed. Cardenas says now is the time to train existing technicians and apprentices on the new skill sets required to work with these vehicles. Critical thinking, STEM, and diagnosing skills will be vital for auto technicians in the near future.

There is a valid concern regarding OEM direct-to-consumer sales as well. For many reasons, Cardenas says that the franchised dealer model has always been the best way for OEMs to get their products to the end-users. Car dealers invest in property and engage with their local communities. Cardenas would like to see OEMs and dealers collaborate and develop a process that is best for the consumer.