FAST FORWARD TO 2045

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Recently, cyberverse pioneer Regis McKenna cautioned marketing leaders at our J.D. Power & Associates 10th Annual Customer Satisfaction Symposium that "we spend billions to predict the future, but it is becoming more and more elusive."

Later at that same conference, famed futurist Alvin Toffler told us that we live in a new era which "stands many of the ideas and realities we have been taught to believe in on their heads-now those ideas must be revised or thrown out."

Mr. Toffler calls the new era the Third Wave of change in human history. And it has crashed down upon the car business like an unstoppable tsunami. All the rules are changing but not all car marketers are keeping up.

Many dealers still believe that the traditional distribution system will endure. It won't. In the next half century, the system will either change so much that it will be unrecognizable to today's auto retailers-or it will be gone altogether.

Back at the factory, carmakers are all over the cyberverse. We will have to sell one-on-one and we will have to do it in bytes, not in showrooms. Already, Toyota Motor Sales USA has successfully sold hundreds of cars through the Internet.

In the world described by Messrs. Toffler, McKenna and others, knowledge is power, and individual consumers will be plugged into a virtually unlimited pool of knowledge.

If you think "consumer-controlled marketplace" is a cliche now, wait until the floodgates of change in the 2lst century crash open and engulf us all.

The rules by which car marketing has been governed for almost 100 years are fast becoming obsolete. No one can predict where the dizzying pace of change will deposit us in the next 50 years, but there is one thing we can say with certainty: There'll be plenty of surprises.

Mr. Power is president of J.D. Power & Associates, Agoura Hills, Calif.

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