Belgian Endive for Tysons Corner?
What's to become of the Tysons Corner's auto dealers? Alec MacGillis has a front-page story today about how the plans for an elevated Metro line to Tysons will cut through Leesburg Pike--and some of the car showrooms Washingtonians have been flocking to for decades. Some dealers plan on redeveloping their showrooms, creating more urban style dealerships of the sort found in Manhattan, London and Paris. (Ooh la la!) Others think they might leave the business entirely.
I love a nice auto showroom-ah the smell of rich Corinthian leather in the morning. But like a lot of Americans I always feel a little quesy whenever I enter one. The cliche of the slick, unscrupulous car salesman is overblown, but there's always that moment when you're dropping 20 large on a new vehicle that you must confront : Am I getting ripped off? That's what happens when you buy something that doesn't really have a price tag on it. Am I paying list price? Or sale price? Or the Consumer Reports "bottom line" price? (What's worse, it is inevitable that just after you buy a car you will meet someone who bought the exact same car and, upon hearing what you paid, will give you a sympathetic look. He got it for five grand cheaper.)
Maybe we'll see more than just an architectural change in Tysons Corner. Maybe the way cars are sold will change, too: less test-driving, more Internet shopping. But what's to become of the dealers themselves, many of whom have been selling cars for generations? They can probably cash in, if they own the pricy land on which their dealerships sit. But many will be itching to stay in the game somehow. They're not going to be content to just sit on their hands.
I'm reminded of tobacco farmers and the suggestions on how to encourage them to grow something more healthful than the demon weed. Belgian endive, wasn't it? I'm not equating car dealers with tobacco growers (I love cars! We have 1.5 per licensed driver in my house). It's just that the car dealers of Tysons may need some help. Like the watermen of the Chesapeake, theirs may be a dying lifestyle.
Wouldn't it be nice if the dealers could still be a part of Tysons? Perhaps they could be landlords of apartment buildings, or condo developers. But, really, I think they should stay transportation related. Let auto dealers take over public transportation in Tysons. Let them run express buses. High-speed rail. Rickshaws taking shoppers from Tysons Corner Center to Tysons Galleria.
Or maybe they can transfer their incredible powers of persuasion to selling something that will reduce traffic, decrease air pollution and make us healthier: "What can I do to put you on a new Schwinn today? And would you like undercoating?"
Hmmm. Maybe not. What are your ideas?
Oh, and by the way, this is John Kelly a-bloggin' here. Thanks to Marc Fisher for inviting me to check out this new technology--and to you for being so gentle.
By John Kelly |
March 20, 2006; 9:23 AM ET
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