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Anti-Dealer messages on websites run by Cars.com

Discussion in '3rd Party Leads and Automotive Classifieds Website' started by Bryan Barnett, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. Bryan Barnett

    Bryan Barnett New Member

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    Hi All,

    Some of you may be aware of this already, but for me it was a shock recently to come across the following two websites which are owned and operated by Cars.com:

    whypaysticker.com
    carpricesecrets.com

    Both websites are used as part of their New Leads Plus program (basically a lead buying service similar to Autobytel, Dealix, etc.) which my rep explained is intended to reach a different demographic than the regular Cars.com customer. I get the rational to an extent, but feel that using negative stereotypes of dealers to entice customers to submit a lead does more harm than good to our industry and is particularly offensive when being used by a company such as Cars.com who makes it's living on the back of us dealers. I have had a long-term relationship with Cars.com and get a reasonable ROI on their product....but seeing these two sites makes me question whether I want to continue giving them our business. Am curious to everyone else's thoughts after you check out the sites...

    Bryan
  2. ECURB

    ECURB New Member

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    How do you know this? I can't find anything that would lead me to believe Cars.com owns them...
  3. Bryan Barnett

    Bryan Barnett New Member

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    Correct, they don't have any Cars.com branding on the site intentionally because of the nature of the sites. I was told directly from my Cars.com rep that they own and run these sites. Call your rep and they will confirm the same thing.
  4. ECURB

    ECURB New Member

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    They are registered to an LLC home based business it seems...

    FWIW the rep could just be spreading water cooler talk
  5. ArtMorris

    ArtMorris New Member

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    WhyPaySticker is associated with Classified Ventures, according to the WHOIS:

    WhyPaysTicker.com - New Car Buyers: Never Pay Sticker. Get The Best Price On Your New Car

    And according to this website, Classified Ventures is the parent company of Cars.

    Classified Ventures® LLC

    The WHOIS for CarPriceSecrets is less clear. It is associated with a residential address in Michigan, about 80mi east of Chicago. It also has a Yahoo email address for the contact. Could be a product of Cars.com, but they covered their tracks a bit better on it.

    CarPriceSecrets.com - Get the Lowest New Car Price Quotes at CarPriceSecrets.com

    Edit: if you look at the dealer page here: http://www.carpricesecrets.com/dealer
    the phone number listed is also listed on the classified ventures website. Probably the same.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2012
  6. Bryan Barnett

    Bryan Barnett New Member

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    Yep, thanks for digging on that. Classified Ventures is Cars.com. CarPriceSecrets.com is theirs as well. Disturbing even further in my opinion that they are trying to really hide the connection.

    In case anyone is wondering, I came on to this because I received an AutoBytel lead that we had the customer tell us he was tricked into filling out a form and did not want to be contacted. I asked my AutoBytel rep what the original source of the lead was (so I could potentially filter out future leads from that source) and was told the source was "Classified Ventures", which is Cars.com. This brought up another issue as to why I was paying AutoBytel for Cars.com leads (since I am signed up directly with Cars.com). Upon investigating this with my Cars.com rep, he informed me the lead came from this New Leads Plus program which is seperate from the standard Cars.com package, and these two sites are part of that New Leads Plus program.

    Would love some further opinions on this from everyone. Was not planning on breaking my relationship with Cars.com, but this really bugs me...
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2012
  7. JoePistell

    JoePistell Super Moderator

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    oh oh.
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  8. JQuinn

    JQuinn Super Moderator

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    Why does this bug dealers? Seriously.

    The intent, admittedly, is to attract those who are anti-dealer, and... wait for it.... wait for it.... here it comes.... direct them to.....

    DEALERS!

    Hello?!!!

    Marketing Rule #1: Fish where the fish are. Dissect Rule #1 into components. One of the components would be: If there are fish there, go there.

    Are there fish in the "Don't Like Dealers Pond?" Duh. So you don't want that fish??

    That's like saying you don't want to eat this delicious trout 'cuz it was caught on a worm instead of a fly.

    Turn your nose up to bait fishing all you want, all you fly-fishing snobs, but my fish tastes just as sweet.

    But hell, if you don't want them, don't PAY for them.
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  9. ddavis

    ddavis Well-Known Member

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    I'm starting to agree with John too often. I may need therapy. I went to whypaysticker.com and I don't see anything that is paints dealerships in a bad light. It says save hundreds from accredited dealers. I need to steal this line: "A dealership’s Internet department prices its vehicles to maximize the number of cars it sells, not the profit per car. Manufacturers decide the allocation of vehicles and dealer perks on the basis of a dealership's volume."
  10. JQuinn

    JQuinn Super Moderator

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    It's Purple Fever. No cure; can't fight it.
  11. ddavis

    ddavis Well-Known Member

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    Can't be that. I think that is a side effect of a lobotomy.
  12. yagoparamo

    yagoparamo Well-Known Member

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    That's correct... even bad people buy cars!
  13. JQuinn

    JQuinn Super Moderator

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    Now of course I was being a little over-facetious, as I tend to do from time to time... :)

    So the real question is the BAD DEALERSHIP dilemma: ignore it and hope it goes away, take on the "Bad Guys" and eradicate their influence, use it to your advantage?

    Anyone who has made a living in a dealership, and has tried to "do the right thing" gets annoyed when the "Dealers Suck" mentality gets shoved in their face. So I certainly understand Bryan's angst. Sooo... are you enticing that perception by funneling money to an entity who <<perhaps>> perpetuates the stereotype? My answer is "No."

    The perception exists, and is going to exist for a long time. Without diverting into a discussion on the culture created by negotiating from a position of ignorance, suffice to say you can only control what your store does and how it operates: keep yourself above the fray and build a great reputation for your store (increasingly important...).

    The rest of it is just Marketing: identify Markets, message to those markets. A similar issue is the Quick Lube debate: To Quick Lube, or not to Quick Lube. One dealer views QL as the opportunity to tap into a revenue stream by stealing share from Jiffy Lube, etc. One dealer views QL as taking business away from his Service department.

    As Cars.com is a Marketing entity, you should want them to appeal to as many markets as possible to drive traffic to your store. And remember that Cars.com did not create, nor do they perpetuate the Bad Dealership perception; they're just marketing their wares.
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  14. NickHummer

    NickHummer New Member

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    Nick Hummer from Cars.com chiming in here. I’ll end the speculation right off the bat – yes, WhyPaySticker.com and CarPriceSecrets.com (as well as NewCars.com) are Cars.com-owned or operated Web sites. All three web sites were part of an acquisition that we made in 2005 in response to a customer need for better quality new-car leads. Together, they generate the leads that are sold through our NewLeadsPlus product.

    We realize that the limited Cars.com branding doesn’t immediately peg these sites as belonging to us, but there is a very measured reason for this, and the language has been hotly debated internally ever since 2005 – how do we balance dealer needs with the goal of converting a wary shopper into a potential buyer (again, these sites are targeted toward very specific consumers)? And that’s the really tricky part – we’ve tested other treatments on these pages (NewCars.com has a very different experience than WhyPaySticker and CarPriceSecrets, for example) and the answer is that the current experience always converts far better than other versions. These sites are not designed to mimic Cars.com, but they exist to serve different types of consumers who are looking for different information or a different experience than that on our main site, to echo John Quinn's point.


    Today, we’re in the process of building out a much more robust New Car offering that extends across our site. We launch our first wave of enhancements in May, and as the year progresses, our goal is to change the new-car experience on our site to better align with the way consumers want to shop and give dealers a stronger platform from which to differentiate their brand. The enhancements on both sides of the house are based on extensive market research and an in-depth pilot program that made it clear that buying a new vehicle on Cars.com isn’t just about price – it’s about the vehicle research process, and it’s about a dealer’s reputation, brand and the great experience they deliver to car shoppers. Does that mean the end of WhyPaySticker.com and CarPriceSecrets.com? We haven’t gotten that far yet, but we do know that the experience on Cars.com for new-car shoppers needed to evolve, and we’re full-steam ahead on that in 2012.

    Edit: Removed the sentence I had in here twice!
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  15. Jeff Kershner

    Jeff Kershner Founder Staff Member

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    Several years ago - I would have felt the same as Bryan. Today, and over the last few years, not so much.

    It's not easy to be passionate about your job on the dealer level and not allow sites like this to hit a few personal nerves. So I totally understand how he feels. But anymore, I don't let it get to me.

    My thought process aligns with Quinny. ;) John - you hit it 100%, you really did.

    The perception exists and there's little we can do about it (until we get the opportunity to change it). Cars.com is doing nothing more than marketing to these consumers.

    Here's the best part - these consumers expectations are low and so we have the opportunity to really impress. Not only impress but possibly create a raving fan, while most likely even receiving one of your best customer testimonials on Google Places or DealerRater you could ever ask for.

    The best testimonials my dealers have ever received were ones that start off like "Up until this point I have dreaded even getting near a dealership, but this time was different..."

    I know a lot of team players at Cars.com (matter of fact I'll be visiting their offices over the next week) and I can tell you without a shadow of doubt, they are some great charismatic people. Truly. There isn't a lot upper management from "big" vendors like Cars.com that even take the time to read industry forums. But it's not unusual to hear from Alex Vetter and Nick Hummer.

    Okay - this is starting to sound like a Ra Ra session for Cars.com. But seriously, I would urge anyone before removing Cars.com or any marketing or conversion channel form their marketing mix, to really consider if this is the best move for not only your dealership but the lively hood of your sales and service team.

    Whether you initially agree or not, I hope this threads at least has you (readers) thinking and possibly reconsidering your view on sites like the ones mentioned.
  16. ddavis

    ddavis Well-Known Member

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    How dare these guys talk about car dealers! Your reputations are at stake. I don't know about the rest of the country but the Arizona guys, don't listen to John, Jeff and the guy from Cars.com. You need to protest, take your new and used vehicles off of Cars.com and AutoTrader, too. Tell your rep, like she is your mistress, "pull em down". Let's see a little "occupy" action.
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  17. Ed Brooks

    Ed Brooks Well-Known Member

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    Who says sarcasm doesn't work online?
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  18. Bryan Barnett

    Bryan Barnett New Member

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    Great to hear some feedback from others on this, particularly the thoughts from Jeff and John. Was surprised that I seem to be in the minority opinion, but definitely understand the other perspectives. Am I being a bit thin-skinned about the whole thing? Perhaps....I am a younger fellow in the business than some on this forum and maybe stuff like this won't draw my ire in another 10 years similar to what Jeff noted. I think my issue however isn't simply that there are some negative marketing messages used in our industry that feed into old stereotypes, but that it was Cars.com who was participating in this sort of marketing. From Nick's response, he noted that there's been a lot of internal debate whether this sort of thing was appropriate for Cars.com. I'd argue that the company does plenty well with their traditional program and would be better served not being in the business of playing up negative stereotypes of their clients (dealers). Just my two cents (again)...
  19. JQuinn

    JQuinn Super Moderator

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    Bryan, did you just call me old???? hahaha... Geez, if I'm old, what do you call Dave and Ed???? (tehe). I probably deserve that... I like the way you think. Honestly, the perception should bother you... means you care about what you do.

    Good luck!!
  20. Bryan Barnett

    Bryan Barnett New Member

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    Ooops! :) Before Jeff gives me grief as well, I take back that comment. Ha. On a serious note, yes I really do care about the perception of our industry as a whole. I've been in the business now around 10 years and in that time I feel there's been a pretty large shift in consumer attitude toward dealers...in a positive way. We see it every day here in the store, along with feedback we get online, and it feels great. Obviously the explosion of the internet (and the transparency it brought with it) played a huge role. So damnit Cars.com, stop trying to ruin my good vibe! Ha.
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