Don't know when it happened but car dealer showrooms seem like they have a lot less artistic flair & general salesmanship style than they used to, especially judging by the pictures on this thread. It must have been exciting to go see the new cars back then. This is a Buick dealer in Pittsburgh circa 1935 showing the 1936 models (I believe).
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I am not sure exactly when it happened either.
I was IN the industry when OEM's decided to make standardized "brand image" changes to the dealerships. Dealers, as independent business people, didnt HAVE to remodel/move their businessess, but the OEM didn't have to sell them cars either if they didn't follow franchise agreements.
Early marketing of cars was an "event" for many of the first owners. City or rural, part of the "ooh's and aahs' were in the look of the showroom -- "palaces" where they sold NEW cars.
Hell, it WAS exciting, even in my lifetime, to go to a new car dealership!
120 years later the industry motorized the world, all the other changes, and after "cookie cutter" branding/architecture, OEM's still invest a lot of thought/training/franchise agreements, etc, in "marketing" whatever their particular brand themes are .. luxury, performance, rock climbing, outdoorsy .. whatever moves iron and gets good JD Power scores.
I presume they (OEM's AND dealerships) have data (demographic, consumer preference, etc) that drives some of their investment /decisions on how their buildings look (not just placards, banners, but brick and mortar too).
I have my doubts today .. even BEFORE I stopped buying NEW cars (worst investments ever in my view).
The building to me is just something to allow "all-weather" selling/protect valuable inventory. As long as buidling is NOT
a dump, and I like the vehicle, I couldnt' give a sh** the color scheme of the building as that stuff doesnt affect my purchase decision very much.
Maybe it still does, or its just 120 years of inertia in OEMs and consumers' behaviors.