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With the rash of cost-cutting in the face of current automotive industry challenges, I feel like something should be said on behalf of digital investment. It’s no secret that the number of dealerships will drop dramatically this year and beyond. I think it's obvious that the economy has had a fairly dramatic effect on consumers, too. But it’s more than just declining sales. The economy is also impacting how consumers are shopping for their next new car or truck.

If consumers are replacing vehicles at a slower rate, this means they are taking more time than ever to research their next purchase. Odds are they are staying away from the actual point of sale to avoid the perceived risk of being trapped by dealers desperate to get a sale. Instead, consumers are doing vehicle research via the Internet from the comfort of their homes.

With consumers spending more time online gathering information, digital marketing has become significantly more important. Yet I get the sense that some manufacturers and dealer groups are considering reductions in their online investment (e.g., less content and fewer features).

Closing even one brick and mortar store is a difficult decision. The decision to cut digital investment is not one that should be taken lightly, either. In this difficult time, carmakers and retailers should make every effort to maintain or even increase their investment in their customers' online experience. Otherwise, they risk losing sales to dealers who realize the power and potential of digital marketing.

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