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NADA History

Great products are said to sell themselves — but not without a great distribution system to get them to buyers. Auto inventors of the early 20th century knew they were onto something big, but couldn’t get bank financing. They tried selling their products by mail order, in department stores, and even through traveling salesmen, with no luck.

Enter the franchise system, with its independent entrepreneurs under contract to sell the new contraptions — forward-thinking individuals who were willing to take a chance on the automakers’ jalopies and provide the cash to build the next month’s supply. These individuals helped a fledgling industry take hold like no other and put the average American on wheels.

The franchise system’s resiliency has outlasted depressions, recessions, world wars, and failed automaker attempts at retailing, and is still going strong 100 years after the first dealer signed a contract.


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