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Showing posts with label dealers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dealers. Show all posts

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Our Family's Personal Story of Buying a Car



This post is going to be a bit different than my usual post on the blog.  I’m not going to write about marketing all that much, since sadly marketing had very little to do with what cars our family narrowed down to.  Is this because marketing has little impact on car shopping? No.  I’m sure it had more to do with my being fairly knowledgeable about the cars currently in the market so discovery wasn’t a factor.

It’s been over four years since I last went through the car buying experience. There is never a dull moment when buying a car.

A lot of information is online, including every dealership’s inventory that makes seeing what’s already on dealer lots easy, sometimes.  I found several dealers didn’t fill out all of the specifications including such basic things as interior color and packages.  I even had one dealer I did an email inquiry on ignore my simple question about interior color and instead told me to, “Come on down and test drive it. You’ll love it!” “You know what I’d love to know what the interior color is,” I responded in a follow up email. 

One thing I learned is that dealers still have a ton to learn.  Their email systems with auto-response are a mess, often making communication more troubling. In another situation, I submitted a request to get a dealer’s “ePrice.”  What came back was a lovely form email telling the MSRP as the “ePrice” on a car that’s body style is 5 years old and I know full well had at least a couple thousand dollars of room to negotiate. You think they would’ve tried a little with even $500 off.

Our car buying decision was a joint process between my wife and me.  It was to replace her 1999 Lexus RX300 that was starting to suffer old age with too many repairs last year.  Since our moving to Dallas from Detroit, we do a lot more out of state travel.  My wife isn’t a big fan of flying so driving back and forth between Texas and Michigan is at least a twice a year thing. 

So we needed a car that worked for our family of four (twin 5 year old boys in tow), had all-wheel drive thanks to Michigan winter driving still, had plenty of cargo space, and navigation. Plus a decent turning radius after 10 years of the Lexus that required a three-point turn in every situation.

About a year ago, we were online and I was showing my wife the integrated child booster seats on the Volvo SUVs and wagon.  This $1000 option, included in the cold package, had my wife talking about wanting a Volvo most of last year.  The XC90 was her primary choice.

While I liked the Volvos, I wanted to look at some other choices too.  I started researching used Porsche Cayennes and X5 Diesels, knowing new was out of my league.  She wanted a new car so my dream of Euro CPO was out of the question.

Our first experience with a Volvo was a overnight extended test-drive before Christmas break in a XC90. I had been down to a dealership in late November and the sales guy kept leaving me messages, but I wasn’t serious enough to buy or call back yet. Finally he left one message saying he can offer us an overnight test-drive. I took him up on it.

It was massively disappointing – showing how the test-drive is the most significant part of a buying decision.  The XC90 had soft, floaty handling and some of the interior items, because the car hasn’t been refreshed in a major way since 2002 when it launched, felt cheap and poorly executed.  I remember most the ugly window switch that looked like it came out of a late 1990s Ford, which it probably did.  Also the third row was completely useless. 

We returned the XC90 telling the salesperson at Park Place Volvo in Dallas that we were going on vacation for the holiday and to call us back first week of January.  I still have yet to hear from this dealership…

Fast forward to early February. 

I’m very fortunate. I have some great contacts in the auto industry and thanks to Scott Monty and Sam Delag of Ford I was able to secure a 2012 Ford Explorer to see if I could get my wife interested in a Ford.  Let me preface, her good friend had an Explorer in the 1990s and hated it. In fact, I helped our friend buy a Toyota Highlander after the miserable experience with her Ford. So, my wife was very skeptical.

I told her Ford really has changed. Of course, I knew this very well having worked at Ford’s Agency of Record Team Detroit for 3 years before coming to AT&T in Dallas in 2010.

We spent about 5 days with the Explorer and it dramatically changed my wife’s opinion of the brand.  It also had us both extremely close to buying a Ford.  There was a lot to love. MyFord Touch was loaded with technology, including changing ambient interior light colors – the best feature according our kids.  Also the automatic, and useful, third-row seating was very impressive. 

What we didn’t love was the size. It felt huge on the road and Dallas has a lot of narrow parking spaces so I found myself having to pass 2 or 3 before finding a spot I wouldn’t get 50 door dings in. 

The size was also what we loved the most. It is a great road trip SUV and we could easily imagine some great drives across the States in it.  It had everything too with heated/cooled seats, dual-sunroofs, and great comfortable seats for all three rows.

We returned it to Grapevine Ford who was fantastic for letting us try it out.  Trevor, the sales guy who arranged everything, was excellent and I highly recommend him. 

Next we had arranged for a Volvo XC70 T6 station wagon from Volvo of Dallas for a weekend.

It was loaded with every feature imaginable; though, felt less optioned then the Ford Explorer we just returned the week before. Goes to show you how complete the Explorer is.

I have to say I loved the Volvo on two main points: handling and engine.  It satisfied everything I wanted out of a family hauler.  The turbo 300 horsepower and 325 pound feet of torque engine is slightly better than a stock version of my 2007 BMW 335i.   Handling on the T6 model is also firm and responsive.  It’s no BMW but it was a world of difference from the unimpressive XC90’s handling. 

Our boys really liked the integrated booster seats.  My wife felt the car was easier to drive than the larger Explorer and the technology seemed a lot simpler too. While MyFord Touch had a lot of cool features, it made for a very confusing interface after the more straight forward; though, less feature rich Volvo. 

The bad news on the Volvo was no third-row, a tiny sunroof, and no air-cooled seats.   Also the Volvo was about $4,000 more. 

In the end we went with the Volvo knowing that while we would appreciate the size and third-row of the Explorer a few key times in the year it wasn’t really necessary. Plus the Volvo was just easier day-to-day for my wife to drive and I loved the engine and handling of the XC70 T6. 

We also had a great salesperson, Jonathan Tullis, who made the whole transaction easy and straight forward, plus he follows up with customers.

While there are a lot of factors that go into choosing a vehicle, I find it funny that so little had anything to do with word-of-mouth, ads or social media. Though offers did matter since both cars had great financing rates that were a factor in our consideration.

Quite simply the biggest factor of our choice was a $1,000 option: the integrated child seats.  If that option was available in other brands, we most likely would’ve looked at them, because in the end it’s all about product. This time Volvo took an early lead and a strong finish with one simple product feature advantage no one else had.

We basically bought 300 horsepower car seats.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

GM's Social Media Team Shows How Brand Experience Online Can Remedy a Bad Situation



When someone complains in social media they simply want be heard. They want to voice issues to their social network so that their friends can know what company or product to avoid; they may want resolution; or they may simply just want others to provide moral support.

Sometimes companies are listening and may even actively respond to a complaint. The past two days I witnessed a very public version of this when one of the people I have come to know in the automotive twitosphere (I swore I’d never use that dumb word, but just did) had an issue with a Chevrolet Equinox he ordered a couple weeks ago.

Dalibor Dimovski (@kewlrats on Twitter, Dali for short) explains his situation on Facebook better than I ever could:

"The vehicle was paid for in full on Feb 2nd as we were told this as needed to lock in the incentives. We were also asked to hand over our trade-in at that time. This past Monday we paid our first loan payment to our financial institution.

And all of this without receiving the car. (Still have not received it yet.)"



Obviously this was an issue at the dealer level, probably with a lot of promises and the buyer will get the car very soon from the already paid car salesperson and now we have a very frustrated customer who is unsatisfied with a brand; though, fortunately Dali is not Kevin Smith and kept his cool, but he was definitely upset.



Dali told me, "I was upset at the dealership buying process and excruciatingly long wait and faults, I found it extremely difficult to get an answer to my questions. This both stressed me out further and made me second-guess my purchase." Fortunately someone was listening.

Early in the process, Dali received some support from his network of fellow automotive enthusiasts.



The situation was spreading about Dali’s issue and spreading through a community of well-connected automotive friends. Fortunately, General Motors’ Social Media Team, led by Chris Barger (@cbarger), noticed there was a problem, as did some other employees GM has on Twitter. One very active GM employee Borger (@GMEmployee) caught this situation early and tried to correct the idyllic expectation created by Dali’s salesperson.



It didn’t end there. GM’s Social Media team continued to work on the problem reassuring him that they were actively working to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. The team also made sure Dali engaged with the proper channels like GM’s Customer Care team (@GMCustomerSvc).



Chris Barger further stressed that GM was committed, as a whole company, to make sure its customers needs are met. The actions taken online today demonstrated that care not only to Dali, but to everyone listening too.



Fortunately the vehicle was in at the dealership and the problem was remedied even if it did create some angst for Dali and his family, whom by the way recently had their first child, a beautiful baby daughter born last November.



The online experience extended into the dealership experience too. Dali shares, "upon walking into the dealership, I was floored by the response from my salesperson. He mentioned that he had heard about my updates on Twitter and was glad to have been contacted by the GM Customer Service team. The dealership did not realize I was that frustrated as I had always been patient and cordial in communication with them. They respectfully corrected the situation, making me an incredibly happy buyer in the end."

The resolution shows how effective social media can be in rapidly turning a bad situation around. What I personally like most about this example is that everyone was considerate to Dali’s issue and there was no grandstanding or over promising going on.

After a week of hearing about how much of a blowhard Kevin Smith is when he isn't happy with a company, it was great knowing not everyone is a jerk on Twitter when things go south.

One of Dali’s final tweets came late yesterday after he had finished picking up the car from the dealership and ending on a positive note. I’m sure it felt like a great day for the GM team, as a side effect it gave everyone in social media a positive example of how this social stuff works.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Toyota's Recall Pain Mocked by Honda Dealer



One great thing about dealership marketing is how they can react to news immediately and get a response without all the production time and creative planning it takes to develop a campaign.

So with all of the news about Toyota’s decision to stop selling 8 of its vehicles, including the best selling car in America the Toyota Camry. It is no surprise that one dealer took the initiative and immediately poked fun at his main competitor.

The above dealership sign posted by @Edmunds is supposedly from a Dallas, Texas Honda dealership.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Guy Is Definitely Not Getting a Lexus LFA



I think it’s a pretty good guess that the guy who owns this Lexus SC400 won’t be eligible for the exclusive Lexus LFA super car. It’s not that I’m assuming the person can’t come up with $350,000. Even if he could, it’s highly doubtful Lexus would let this SC400 owner buy one.

In the case of the LFA, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Lexus has come up with some non-financial criteria for those it will let buy the LFA. According to Paul Williamson, national manager at Lexus College, Toyota’s dealer training school, "We want it to be seen on the right roads, in front of the right restaurants and not just being enjoyed by one individual in their private garage."

To make that happen, the Lexus sales team is being very picky – oh sorry, exclusive – about who it doles out its 165 or so LFAs that will make it to the United States. “People selected to purchase the car will be based on factors such as the other cars they own, where they live, and how often and where they drive,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

This obsession with exclusivity is a tactic by Lexus to make the LFA one of the most hard to get products in the automotive world and put Lexus in the same breath as super car brands like Ferrari. In fact, this strategy from Lexus reminds me a lot of the difficulties of obtaining a new Ferrari.

Ferrari typically sells its car to existing Ferrari owners as it sells the few numbers of cars it produces to the Ferrari faithful. I’m not sure the brand asks where Ferrari owners will drive the cars or how often or restrict purchases by owner location, but who knows what selection criteria may go on behind the scenes.

So do these tactics help the Lexus brand increase its perceived exclusivity in the luxury marketplace? I doubt it. If anyone can go down the street and buy a Lexus IS-F or RX400h, the whole concept of hard to get is limited to just the LFA.

The LFA, however, is an amazing halo vehicle and is sure to get the Lexus faithful and aspirational more behind the accomplishments of the brand. The halo vehicle effect will provide some bragging rights for the owners of other Lexus products. Plus the LFA is an excellent embodiment of what the fairly new “F Performance” series of products represents and that should lead to some positive brand perception to products like the IS-F and future “F Performance” vehicles.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

FTC: Bloggers Not the Target, Advertisers Are


If you are a follower of social media news, I’m sure you didn’t miss all of the discussions about the FTC announcing guidance for bloggers having to disclose any freebees they receive from companies. It’s been a hot discussion topic across blogs, the advertising industry and major media outlets. In fact, if you want to understand the topic better than I can ever describe it, checkout the New York Times article discussing not only the impact on bloggers but what it means for traditional media too.

A lot of this issue has surrounded bloggers being singled out for receiving swag, while magazines, newspapers and TV reviewers get all kinds of products free to review from manufacturers. With the new rules, many bloggers feel the FTC guidelines (they are not laws) unfairly make bloggers the target of government regulations for a practice traditional media has taken part in for decades. This is a valid concern, but what does this mean for the automotive industry and its use of bloggers?

Is this passive compliance?

There is a $16,000 fine associated with each violation, so the threat is real but is it likely to be levied? The Silicon Alley Insider reports, “FTC assistant director Richard Cleland tells Joe Ciarallo at PR Newser, the FTC would never go after a blogger. It would only go after the advertiser.”

After a couple weeks digesting the FTC rules many feel they are meant as self-policing regulation to show that the government will take violations that mislead customers seriously, but most of the change will be an industry understanding of how to behave with consumer interests in mind. Doing proper disclosure is a good thing as is properly making well-informed statements about products being reviewed.

In a recent addition of the marketing Podcast The Bean Cast, host Bob Knorpp shares his email exchange with advertising lawyer Michael McSunas about when such a fine would occur. Many feel, as reported in last week’s Agency Spy blog, that the FTC sets up these rules as a guideline and never enforces the compliance with a fine. McSunas feels a fine would only be sought if the violation was for "deceptive practices or maybe a complaint." This is probably correct but of course it’s an educated assumption until we see the FTC take action or no action.

Disclosure is Easy, Inaccurate Statements More Complex


Regardless of when or if a fine will ever be levied, the FTC rules have caused a bit of a panic for bloggers who don’t want to face government fines after possibly inaccurately reviewing the latest hybrid car or family minivan.

It’s also caused concern for marketers who don’t want to be a case study for the FTC and want to make sure no inaccurate statements are made about their products, so it creates an issue for them to now review everything written about them that they send for review to a blogger. This issue is fare more concerning than the disclosure rule a blogger is supposed to make for receiving any item to review.

Marketers more likely the target

One issue automakers may worry about is statements casually written by bloggers that could be construed as competitive claims. To quote the FTC Rules directly:
"The Commission believes it is reasonable to hold the advertiser responsible for communicating approved claims to the service (which, in turn, would be responsible for communicating those claims to the blogger).”
For those who may not know, automakers must legally confirm competitive statements like best mid-size sedan fuel economy or roomiest third-row. Of course, some claims are utter nonsense since companies choose who is in their segment, though it does have to be within reason. Also claims can select what they want to compare against, like using highway mileage instead of combined mileage or vice-versa to show a competitive advantage.

With bloggers, the concern is a possible lack of depth within a particular industry of products where a blogger may claim something like “wow this car has the most roomiest interior of any SUV.” False claims like this now have federal oversight from the FTC that may cause reluctance from a corporate lawyer reviewing a blogger outreach campaign.

So, the big question is will fear of inaccurate statements by bloggers reduce company participation in social media? Don't know. Maybe in the near-term, but I doubt long-term since companies and bloggers will learn how to comply with the FTC rules and some initial hysteria may dissipate over time.

It’s about consumer protection... really

If this is about consumer protection and less about collecting fines, the FTC rules should be welcomed as it shows blogger importance has reached a level worthy of attention. There have been marketers like Sony who have created fake bloggers to write about the PSP. Other issues have been companies outright paying for positive reviews. Something had to be done to handle the few violations of public trust.

My experience in automotive is that it is quite clear when a blogger is given a car to review and from where that car came from. So disclosure is already being done. Claims are the more pressing concern and may lead to additional materials being presented to bloggers at the time a vehicle is offered for review.

In conclusion

Hopefully, the FTC rules will remove any suspect social media campaigns that create fake bloggers or do payola deals. Also, I believe we’ll see the rules in action by their inaction and how this may do very little to change what is going on today on most blogs. Sure we’ll see some more emphatic statements about how a blogger received a product, but beyond that the impact should be minimal and the working relationship with bloggers and auto manufacturers and dealers a continuing positive experience for all.

For more information about the FTC Rules:

Truth in Advertising, Offline or Online from @NYTimes

Episode 75: The Monopoly on Crappy Work from @TheBeanCast

IAB Says FTC Blogger Rules Trample Constitution from @AdWeek

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials from FTC.gov

Finally, this blog post was sponsored by Gas Station Coffee for when you are too lazy to brew your own or walk 1 minute to the nearest Starbucks.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yes, a Car Dealer Can be a "Trust Agent"


The book Trust Agents by Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) and Julien Smith (@julien) is getting rave reviews in social media circles. It’s a book about using the web to build influence and improve one’s reputation online. What’s amazing is it is not your typical social media book that talks about what Twitter is or what is happening with kids on MySpace; rather, it is about practical advice around reputation management and how having online respect can lead to a better performing business or career.

That said, I finished the book feeling a bit icky. Don’t get me wrong, it is an excellent book filled with a lot of insight and solid advice. I felt icky in the same way I would feel icky reading a book like How to Win Friends and Influence People which feels like a way to manipulate people and in a sense that’s part of what Trust Agents is about. It doesn’t emphatically say here is how you manipulate people or you should manipulate people, in fact its authors are very clear that the book isn’t for that purpose.

So I got to thinking about the most manipulative caricature in the automotive industry – the car dealer – and how he or she might find “Trust Agents” a valuable read. But I don’t think most will use Trust Agents in evil-ways nor do I think car salespeople are bad people; rather, I think car salespeople can learn a lot from Trust Agents. In fact, a lot of the lessons could change public perception of the conniving car salesman.

It’s no surprise people hate car shopping and mostly dislike the dealership experience. Social media provides an opportunity to change that perception, but it is not a short-term fix and those dealers who enter social media relationship building might get frustrated because getting a quick sale isn’t what social media is about. You just don’t one day start a Facebook page or a Twitter account and get a bunch of traffic in the showroom the following week.

What’s most valuable about Trust Agents is how it outlines what to expect, the time it takes to build respect, and how building a following can turn into amazing things down the road. Understanding the process is one of the solid insights of the book.

First dealers must understand the concept of “One of Us.” “One thing that distinguishes certain people as trust agents is the simple defining question of whether a specific community sees them as ‘one of us,’” states the authors. This is a very fundamental concept in social relationship building. The great thing is that I have experienced dealers who get this very well.

For example, I have become “friends” with the person running the Jupiter Chevrolet Twitter account (@JUPCHEVY. I assume it’s the same person, a male; though, I could be wrong.)

What makes @JUPCHEVY interesting is that he is someone who is obviously passionate about cars and regularly engages with his followers. The Tweets aren’t the typical dealer communications about what latest vehicle arrived or that they are open Saturday; rather, the communications show a passion for the GM products but also shows some personality. Look at @JUPCHEVY’s Tweets and see what I mean.

This is relationship building and Jupiter Chevrolet has become “one of us” in many discussions on cars with other auto enthusiasts. He has shared photos of his classic Camaro, participated in various #carchat sessions with other auto enthusiasts, and engages in a very human, non sales, kind of way.

So what about sales? Now, I don’t live anywhere near Garland, Texas, where this dealership is, but it doesn’t matter. I have a good friend in Dallas and if he ever needs a car, I’d recommend Jupiter Chevrolet in a second. Sure it’s a stretch to say the relationship building will lead to a sale from me, but just think of that. A stranger up in Michigan will recommend your dealership in Texas to people in his social network and with all of us talking on Facebook and other social properties it’s not that much a stretch that some relationships may lead to sales.

It’s important to note that @JUPCHEVY hasn’t become “one of us” because he is a car salesman. Nope it’s because of what is mentioned in Trust Agents, “the most important thing is to execute against who you are; be authentic, start pumping out free content, and become part of the conversation.” I know this dealer loves cars and is passionate about his industry. It’s that passion and integrity that has created this trust.

Trust Agents states the obvious, “we tend to buy from people who are like us.” What’s cool about social media is how it can humanize even the most despicable of professions. But it takes time, commitment and a genuine interest in being a sharing person and not just talking about what you have to sell and when your doors are open. The best dealers are those who get that sales is all about the relationship and some very strong relationships can be built online. Trust Agents shows how this can happen and what it means in this new world.

What I’d like to believe is that a lot of car salespeople have a passion for their products and their industry and that they too can be similar trust agents like @JUPCHEVY. Sure it’s not for everyone and there does need to be genuineness in one’s communication. It’s possible one could fake it, but trust takes time and hopefully those who are trying to manipulate will get burned out by the time it takes to build a following.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rejected Dealers Find Voice in Social Media


Several dealers (or is it ex-dealers?) are sharing how the recent dealership closing arrangement under GM and Chrysler’s government expedited bankruptcy proceedings are a violation of “constitutional rights”, “property rights” and “franchise laws.” Since no one is listening to the dealers, who were negatively impacted, they have offered their stories on YouTube for all to see. Since few of us watch CSPAN, this outreach may reach the intended public audience that should hear what has happened.

News stories from local media outlets and personal statements make up the Rejected Dealers YouTube Channel. It’s an interesting social outreach from a group who feels slighted that the country pretty much ignored their side of the story. YouTube is giving them a voice and organizing this content under a channel helps make the impact that much more stronger, especially if you spend some time listening to a few of the videos.

Some dealers discuss how the government’s Automotive Task Force was given wrong information about how much of a cost the dealerships are to the manufacturers. They feel this information missed the financial benefits the dealerships give the OEMs, the local communities, and the tax base.

The dealers are obviously intelligent, articulate business people who are very passionate about the business they or their families built. Each video creates a very personal connection with the dealer and how sorrowful the result of the Automotive Task Force decision is.

I know this isn’t the usual marketing coverage I write about on this blog, but it’s a compelling look at how social media can enable grassroots messages in the automotive industry. What’s on this channel is social outreach and giving people a voice beyond their normal channel. The end result is a compelling string of stories telling what has happened to hard-working people who were shafted by a rushed bankruptcy process.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Will Sidewiki Become an OEM or Dealership's Worst Social Media Nightmare?


Google just released a new technology they call Sidewiki. It allows anyone who installs Sidewiki on their browser to read and add comments to any website (requires Internet Explorer 6+ or Firefox 2+, for now.) A side panel that can expand or contract sits on the side of the browser window. Comments in the Sidewiki window are unique to each website and are viewable to anyone with the technology installed on their browser.

Social media strategist Richard Stacy explains the technology best in SocialMediaToday, “Because this is linked to the browser, the site owners themselves have no say here – you can’t opt-in or opt-out. At one level this could be a move which forces every website into the social media space – whether they like it or not.”

I thought about this technology and immediately became concerned about all of the vendettas people have about their poor experiences with a particular brand, car and dealership. Now people can instantly share their disgust with your brand and products as long as you have a website. You can’t turn it off, you can’t delete their comments and you are now instantly part of the social media party whether or not you want it.

Take for instance a person who owns the car I own – a 2007 BMW 335i convertible. He started a website called BimmerIssues.com that covers his ownership frustration with water coming through his convertible top. Now he can go to BMW’s website and his dealership’s website and share his frustration with everyone who visits these web pages. Provided someone has Sidewiki installed, they now may avoid that dealership or that product and move right on to a competitor simply because of this one person’s issue or worse if many people have a similar issue with a vehicle, everyone now can voice their frustration collectively on that brand’s own website’s Sidewiki.

I did a test to see how this would work and added a Sidewiki complaint to a dealership I bought from over 10 years ago. As you can see, in the image that leads this story, it is quite easy to share one’s frustration and leave negative feedback (note: I deleted the comment after taking the screenshot for this story.) Not an unusual problem in social media, but now I can do it right on that dealer’s website and they have only a few options: ignore the comment, defend what happened in their own words, or hope others will come to their defense.

The most frustrating part for a dealership (or any commercial website) is that now no one has to search for feedback by reading various blogs and digging deep into search results. In fact, a site is probably using media buys to drive people to their site and now this drives them to all of the Sidewiki commentary too.

Now anyone with an issue can raise that issue right on the company’s website and the minute there is some sort of Public Relations fiasco, just think how bombarded a site will get with Sidewiki comments?

It’s a new world out there and every website now has public feedback turned on. Sidewiki is very new and it may not develop as I am outlining it here, but my guess is that we will see this technology spread. What will be interesting is to see how brands respond and if Google will eventually have to pull the plug or change functionality (like allowing sites to disable Sidewiki functionality.)
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Friday, July 24, 2009

An Insider Look into the Minds of Car Dealers


There is one site on the web that every automotive marketing industry person should frequent regularly and that is the Automotive Digital Marketing site. There are some real gems out there, as the above video uhm... proves. Okay, it proves that progress is an elusive thing and that local TV production hasn't evolved much in thirty years, but if you want to see what is "viral" in dealer videos you will find it on the site.

Silly videos aside, what is great about the Automotive Digital Marketing site is that you get a look into the struggles, marketing efforts, and insights of dealerships across the country. I find a lot of the discussions quite interesting and the use of video is sometimes educational, compelling, and baffling.

The ADM Forum is where a lot of the learning and insights exist on the site. Dealers engage in a range of topics and share their experiences and even strategies. It's a really well done area with a solid community following so you know there is some critical mass from those who are regulars.

Basically, the site is an excellent resource and probably the best resource on the web for getting a dealer perspective. It's the automotive dealer equivelant to the marketing industry's Ad Gabber site. I highly recommend joining the community if you are interested in what is happening at the Tier 3 level.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Michigan Dealership Gets Politically Charged



This post is running a week behind schedule. I ran across an article in last week's Detroit Free Press showcasing Les Stanford Chevroloet Cadillac in Dearborn, Michigan who released a new advertisement attacking Alabama Senator Richard Shelby. In Michigan automotive circles, Senator Shelby is Public Enemy Number One. Shelby was very outspoken during the Detroit Three congressional hearings earlier this year and late last year. For example, "We're wasting our time trying to keep them alive," he is shown saying in one ad.

So, it was local news when a dealership edited in some of Shelby's comments in their dealer TV advertising.

From the Detroit Free Press: "The ads are the work of the Sussman Sikes agency in Southfield. Owner Alan Sussman, who describes himself as "the last angry man in America," said in the 1940s and 1950s, Shelby's anti-Detroit rhetoric would have been considered treason.

'What's wrong with an autoworker making $100,000?' Sussman asked. 'This is America.'"

I'm not too sure how effective this approach is. On one hand, it probably attracted some additional traffic to the dealership, especially if a Cadillac buyer was cross shopping dealerships and may have added Les Stanford to their list because of the spot and it resonating with a heavy local GM employee and retiree population.

The negative aspect would come from a group probably not too interested in bailed out companies like GM or Chrysler. There certainly are a lot of Americans dissatisfied with taxpayer dollars being spent on bailout after bailout, and this ad further inflames this group.

I'm sure this strategy plays better in Michigan. I wouldn't suggest it to an Alabama dealership or anywhere else outside of the Great Lakes region, but that goes without saying.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Guess the Idea Sounded Better on a PowerPoint


Hilo Chevrolet, of Hawaii, decided to roll-over their Asian competitors Honda and Hyundai by throwing monster truck wheels on a Chevy Suburban as a way to crush the competition. Unfortunately, the demonstration backfired when the Suburban blew a hydraulic hose and leaked vital fluid while the Honda remained waiting for more.

This just a week after a Ford dealer in South Carolina insulted Asians with his rant about Japanese cars being "Rice Ready, Not Road Ready." I get the not road worthy part, but what the hell does "Rice Ready" mean? It's another example of a gregarious dealer trying to show his triumphant patriotism in an idiotic manner.

With all of the fear and worry mounting from a month of bad Big Three press and questions surrounding a Bailout (that thank heavens finally came through), it is of little surprise that local marketing departments have lost their minds. The problem is neither of these two examples help the U.S. auto cause and, at worse, backfire. American cars have a poor history that many of us remember who owned 1970s and 1980s models. Repairing the reputations has been a tough road, but the good news is that quality issues have lessened dramatically, high safety ratings are not exclusively denominated by any country, and style is improving.

I'm personally excited to see such cars as the Pontiac G8, the 2010 Ford Fusion, the new Mustang, and great little roadsters like the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice. These are all products I would love to have in my garage and are far more fun and interesting than a bland Toyota Camry or Honda Accord (though both are fine cars.)

It's just sad that some dealerships are losing their minds and making their brands look as bad as the all the complainers against them. What the U.S. auto manufacturers need is more myth busting around poor quality and less patriotic flag waving. People who do not work for a brand buy a car because it is the right choice for their needs and expanding some minds by showing American brands are worth looking at, because it's not 1985 anymore, is a good thing and good for a healthy competitive marketplace. So please park the monster truck and no more name calling.
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