The history of the car dealership

The humble car dealership has been around for almost as long as motoring itself. Over the years, the dealership has evolved considerably, both in shape and size, and in quantity, too. Nowadays, dealerships cater to a whole range of niches, in a variety of places up and down the country. You’ll find them here in Hull, but there are also many local dealerships in larger cities like Leeds.


The first car dealerships were very different from the ones we know today. Back in the early 20th century, the general public didn’t yet have a good understanding of this nascent technology. Dealerships not only had to sell cars, but also to persuade people that cars were worth being interested in in the first place.

Evolution of the car dealership business model

In the early days, the dealership was a simple middleman between the manufacturers and the end users. However, since then, this role has expanded considerably. Now, the dealership might not just sell cars, but also sell the financing necessary to facilitate the transaction. They might also come equipped with mechanics who provide ongoing aftercare and other complementary services.

With the emergence of the internet in the late 20th century, the role of the dealership has become increasingly digital. We might now expect a customer to assess their options remotely, before committing to a purchase.

Customer experience

Nowadays, competition among dealerships is more fierce than ever. To retain customers, they must put those customers at the centre of everything they do. This might mean offering bespoke services, and a compelling experience in the showroom. Customers should now be expected to compare dealerships only before visiting them in the real world, which means that they’re better informed than ever about what to expect. Up-to-date online pricing, and online reviews, might provide a basis for competition between dealerships.

When dealerships integrate their online and offline experiences, they’ll enjoy a natural advantage. This might mean thinking about joining up visual branding, among other things.

What about the future?

The dealerships of the future will need to account for the evolving tastes and preferences of the customers they serve. This might mean thinking about technological changes, such as the arrival of battery electric vehicles, and other alternatives to the internal combustion engine. We might expect to see dealerships form a vital part of the charging infrastructure, and to market themselves via new online channels that we haven’t yet even conceived of.