It is no longer a secret that the American automobile companies are in a lot of trouble. They blame their woes on foreign imports, government emission standards, high interest rates and gasoline prices. Very few will admit the real problem, and that is that people aren't buying American cars.

The auto companies, for all their experitise, do not understand the consumer. They are making an appeal to his patriotism, offering rebates and giving away autographed footballs.

It doesn't work. I don't wish to be presumptuous by telling the giant U.S. manfacturers how to move their cars, but this is a crisis and I believe they need all the help they can get.

What the American auto companies have to do is change their tactics and play hard to get.

This is how a dealer should treat a prospective buyer who comes into the showroom:

"Can I help you, sir?"

"No, I'm just looking."

"Go right ahead. None of these models is for sale anyway."

"What do you mean none of these is for sale?"

"There is a six-month waiting list for anything you see in the showroom."

"I don't believe it."

"You haven't heard about the shortage then?"

"There is going to be a big shortage in American automobiles in the next three years. We're only going to be able to take care of our regular customers, and they're going to have to take whatever we give them."

"But I need a new car, but there are just so many to go around. "I'm terriby busy now. Perhaps you might try a foreign car dealer. I understand you can get a cheap import right away."

"But I don't want to cheap import. I want an American car."

"Everybody does. What makes you think you're so special that you should have one?"

I'm an American and I have a right to own an American car."

"If you're going to become churlish you can leave the showroom right now. We don't have to put up with someone with a bad temper."

"I'm sorry I lost my head. If I gave you a $500 rebate, would you sell me a car?"

"Sir, we don't accept bribes. There are people who have been waiting over a year for one of our cars. Even if Henry Ford himself called up and told us to give you one, we wouldn't do it."

"I Don't want to beg. But I'm a salesman and I need an automobile for my work. Please give me a break. I'll take anything you have in stock."

"Ocassionally we do make exceptions for hardship cases. But we'll need a lettr from your employer certifying that the automobile will be used for business and not for pleasure."

"I'll get it."

"And then we'll also need three references from people attesting that you are of good character and worthy of driving one of our models."

"I'll give them to you now."

"And, finally, you will have to sign a paper promising you will never reveal to a living soul that we sold you car out of turn."

"My lips are sealed."

"Come into my office. I don't want anyone to see us concluding this sale."

"You're a good a man, and I'll never forget this."

"If you don't mind, I can't stand a groveling customer."