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I’m Tired of Hearing That Car Dealers are ‘So Behind the Rest of the World!’

Steve Stauning

3rd Base Coach
Mar 15, 2012
239
193
First Name
Steve
It seems everywhere you turn in automotive you hear how behind dealers are compared to every other industry when it comes to technology, marketing and the customer experience. Frankly, I’m growing tired of this constant drumbeat; and not just because it’s been going on for well over a decade.

The way I see it, dealers are either more advanced in these areas than the average local (non-dealer) retailer or are (at the very least) as advanced as they need to be / can be, given what's available.

I'm hopeful you'll save your comments until you've at least read the post that prompted this forum post: https://www.dealerrefresh.com/im-tired-hearing-car-dealers-behind-rest-world/
 
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Alex Snyder

President Skroob
May 1, 2006
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Alex
Prior to my vendor years I was not a Steve Stauning fan. But after 7+ years of looking at the industry differently, I have to say that there are few things I do not disagree with you on now.

Yes Steve, dealers have been handed a bad rap in the "advertising innovation" department. Dealers certainly don't deserve it. Sure, their understanding of every little nuance of data might not be on the cutting edge, but who gives a shit. Is my ad spend bringing customers in? Sure. Is it any better than the ad dollar spent per floor-up I had in the past... answer: nope! Exceptions are there, but not so much for the dealers who have celebrated 30+ years in business.

Isn't it crazy nuts that this Internet thing hasn't put most of the dealer body out of business? :crazy:
 
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AdamMurray

Rust & Dust
Sep 4, 2015
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Adam
Spot on, Steve...great post! I've been in the car business for almost 20 years now in vendor and agency roles as well as retail to the GSM level. In my opinion, the ones that gripe the most are the ones who suck the most. Walking out of a sales call and saying, "car guys are dumb and just don't get it" is pure deflection. They get it, they just didn't get your raggedy-ass pitch. Chances are, the dealership is already using some form of whatever you are selling and you just weren't good enough to convince them to change.

Most of us here have been in this vertical for a long time so it's easy to grow blind to the rest of the world. However, I have gained a newfound perspective into the non-automotive realm as of late. The auto team offices here surround the retail bullpen...dozens of folks cold-calling SMB's all day long hawking our digital assets. The conversations I overhear on a daily basis are a delicate blend of frustration and comedy. I am absolutely amazed when I listen to a large, local company that spends massive amounts of money on TV and radio have zero understanding of their own website, SEO/SEM, etc.

If I had a dollar for every one that said, "So and so posts on our Facebook page every week." as their social strategy...

Yes, car guys can be frustrating. Never assume they don't get it, though. Chances are, they know more than they care to let on and, quite frankly, most of them are making a LOT more money than that rep sitting in front of them and know EXACTLY what they need to do to keep making that check.
 
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Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
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754
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Alex
It's not so much about car dealers being behind the rest of the world or other verticals, it's about dealership owners and their unwillingness to spend money on products that have yet to be be proven. It takes time to convince these types. They're just more conservative, far less progressive in their thinking.

Now, I'm sure one of you guys will bring up an example (an anomaly) of a progressive dealer and that's wonderful, but by and large you don't see a lot of it. Who's job is it to change the culture?
 
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Steve Stauning

3rd Base Coach
Mar 15, 2012
239
193
First Name
Steve
owners and their unwillingness to spend money on products that have yet to be be proven
I think when your family has owned the business for 3 generations, and for 3 generations you've been poisoned again and again by Snake Oil, you start to want some proof before you buy.

Don't blame the dealers; blame the scumbags stealing from them for 50+ years.
 

Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
2,432
754
First Name
Alex
I think when your family has owned the business for 3 generations, and for 3 generations you've been poisoned again and again by Snake Oil, you start to want some proof before you buy.

Don't blame the dealers; blame the scumbags stealing from them for 50+ years.
Surely, I don't disagree with you there. It is difficult in that specific situation, but it doesn't change the fact that they can be slow to move. The dirty vendors out there have created this culture. Attribution (benchmark success data) can easily assist in this. Dealers are wising-up to it.
 
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Jeff Kershner

Founder
May 1, 2005
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Jeff
Truth is, we are more advanced than most industries, especially in retail. With the need of using countless programs daily that do not and will most likely NEVER speak to each other ACROSS 3 main departments (sales, service, parts.) Our consumers have NO IDEA!!
 
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Steve Stauning

3rd Base Coach
Mar 15, 2012
239
193
First Name
Steve
The problem (if you can call it that) is that even mediocre dealers who are slow to change make money.

When (not if) the new car retail industry is destroyed/dismantled, it won't be because dealers used a crappy OEM-sponsored website provider instead of the really cool, flexible website company their competitor used; it will be because the ownership model changed - as the result of a much lower price for consumption and a more convenient consumption model. Whether that's inexpensive autonomous taxis or something else remains to be seen.

What exactly would anyone who thinks dealers are "too slow to innovate" suggest dealers do to prepare for this?

Looking back to when price and convenience killed relatively every bookstore and video outlet in your town; what exactly could the smaller companies have done to survive and thrive? We know Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble screwed up by not seeing the future, but what exactly should the guy who owned three video stores have done?

Even the very best and most innovative blacksmiths eventually went out of business.
 
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