Market researchers contribute to the original design process and continue their studies throughout the manufacture and sale of a car. Market researchers compile newspaper, industry, and public reaction from polls and product surveys. They use these findings to help plan sales campaigns. For example, if surveys show consumers like the energy-saving features of a car, then those features might be the focus of advertising. The advertising department uses results from polls and focus groups (small groups of potential consumers) to shape advertising tools for dealers as well as national advertising campaigns aimed directly at the public.
The corporate sales staff works with the car dealers throughout the country to prepare them to sell the new product. Toward the end of the 20th century, the number of dealerships declined, but their size and the number of total cars sold increased. In 1950 about 47,000 dealers sold 7.2 million vehicles. By 1985 half as many dealers sold twice as many cars. High-volume dealers, called megadealers, with multiple locations and multiple franchises (agreements with several companies to sell their cars) compete most favorably. Car supermarkets (establishments that sell used cars at a fixed price, often with a 30-day return policy) and dealerships with separate repair and sales departments are two current trends that are likely to continue. Many car dealerships in the United States also devote a portion of their sales staff to Internet sales. Internet sales associates help potential buyers research and purchase cars online.
Dealership mechanics must learn how to maintain and repair new models. More than 80 percent of the functions of the average automobile are controlled by electronics. This has created a large need for educated mechanics who can also operate computerized diagnostic equipment. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was established in 1972 to help consumers select competent service professionals. ASE Certification of mechanics increased from 8,567 in 1972 to more than 400,000 in 2002. Trade and technical schools continue to be the major source of training for service professionals, who work in car dealerships, service stations, tire shops, and elsewhere.