I had the coolest dream this week, and I share it knowing somebody somewhere is likely to send the looney wagon to my office, but...

Rick Schwolsky, editor in chief rschwolsky@hanleywood.com
Rick Schwolsky, editor in chief rschwolsky@hanleywood.com

I was driving down the typical auto alley found in most cities, the road lined with truck and auto dealerships for Ford, GMC, Dodge, Subaru, Toyota and all the others–except in my dream, these same glassed-in buildings housed colorful tool dealerships instead. Each brand had its own dealer complex complete with service centers, retail showrooms, and test drive demonstration areas. There were even financing departments where you could get fleet deals, extended warranty coverage, and expanded maintenance programs. I had found myself on Toolhouse Drive.

I pulled into the first dealership I came to and walked into the showroom, and there I saw complete lines of the company's tools, displayed by category with cut-aways, demonstration models, video kiosks, and application specialists waiting to help me match their tools to my needs. I walked through a display showing how the company brings its tools through from design to manufacturing–including a segment on its rigorous testing–that gave me an inside peek at each step in their product development and quality control process.

The showroom floor naturally led to the test-drive area, where every tool the company made was set up for you to try in realistic condition–in Trade Zones set aside for concrete, cutting, fastening, drilling, chipping, and so on. There was even an area for testing shop and tabletop tools. Some of the most progressive and confident manufacturers had placed the competitive brands in each category alongside for comparative in-use testing. And, of course, each zone was available for specific training and education for your company and crews to reserve.

And not only could you take a tool out for a test drive, you could sign it out for a week to try it on your jobsites–without a salesperson peering over your shoulder. It goes without saying that any tool brought in for servicing was replaced with the same model as a loaner until your tool was repaired. But each contractor was assigned a service specialist who tracks your maintenance schedules, tool repair records, and even comes out to your jobsites to suggest ways to maximize performance from features you may not even be using.

Then there's the Torque Club, a special brand-loyal, members-only lounge where you could check e-mail, go online, and pick up a Starbucks while you wait for your order or service to be completed.

But the feature I liked best was the Back Room. How many times have you come up with an idea or invention that would improve a tool (or revolutionize the industry) but didn't know where to go with it? In my dream, the most loyal of the loyal are led by a personal brand counselor from the Torque Club to the Back Room, where, in secrecy and security, you can describe your invention to a company engineer and attorney, and on the spot a patent and royalty deal are assigned to you, along with a hefty down payment, a piece of the action, and a dozen pit crew tickets to NASCAR.

Like I said, it was a dream. Now dial 911.