The Weekly Refresh – Dealer Synergy, HotSwap, SEO, Twitter.

Daily_refresh_iconQuite reading DealerRefresh and wrap up the month STRONG!!

  • Sean Bradley, CEO of Dealer Synergy will be presenting a training session for General Managers, Internet Sales Professionals, Sales Managers, BDC and CRC Managers. This Synergy Session is being held at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel. Good Stuff!!
  • HotSwap To Enter Used Car Market – Think YouTube exclusively for selling cars. HotSwap allows anyone to list a used car for sale with an included video. Next dealers will have to have their own Video and Editing Departments!

That’s it for now..I’ll be writing more about Video when I get the opportunity.

If you had the opportunity to start over with your website, what would you do?

I just came across DealerRefresh few days ago and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the time and effort it must take to keep it up and running.  I’ve been involved in the car business now for almost 4 years and have been on the Internet side of it for all but about 5 months.

For the most part, everything has been a self-taught or at best a trial and error experience.  It’s nice to have a resource such as this one to turn to for thoughts and opinions from others in the industry that are in a non-competitive situation.  I’m working now for a family owned business that has been in business for a little over 58 years.  It was started as a Buick dealership back in the day.  We are now a 4 franchise group, Buick, Isuzu, Mazda and BMW.  We are in the process of becoming only a BMW dealership, that along with the used car department which will expand by adding a high-line section to our current, mostly GM and other domestic inventory.

We now use Reynolds both for our web site design and our CRM tool.  I used AVV at my prior dealership (Honda) for about 3 years.  I can’t say that Reynolds Contact Management is any easier to use, but it does seem to have much more capability and the support folks at Reynolds are outstanding.  With the upcoming new changes in mind, would you have any advice to offer as to a web provider? Reynolds is a bit limited in the template offerings they have available and they only have one template that is BMW compliant in their super premium package.  It’s in use by a BMW Center about 225 miles away from us and I am afraid the same template might be a bit confusing to our clients.  If you had the opportunity to start over with your website, what would you do?

If you have taken the time and effort to read this far, I truly appreciate it.  As well as any opinions/suggestions you might have to pass along to someone who wants to get better and dominate this market area.  I am a full time Internet Manager here and have a pretty free hand as to how I run the department.  It is me and I generally receive and work the leads myself, except the BMW leads which I divide out among 4 Client Advisors.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Sincerely, Ray

-Per Ray’s request, I was asked to remove his full name and dealer info.

AutoTrader and MSN autos causes a “surge in shoppers”?


Did anyone take notice to this ad in one of the recent dealer magazines?

"Get ready for a surge in shoppers like you’ve never seen before". I don’t know about all of that.

Is it true that dropped MSN autos because they wanted too much money for the space and at the end of the day they were contributing less then 8% of overall searches for

Have you even tried to search for a vehicle on MSN auto? It’s a mess!!


Under the "New Cars" and "Used Cars" options you have (2) Go buttons. The first Go button (the one I thought was going to send me to my search results) lands you on a model page with Kelly Blue Book Values, Ratings with an information button to the right that takes you to each model years specifications page. By now you basically have to start your search over if your looking for actual inventory (unless you take notice to the little search box in the upper corner).


In my opinion MSN autos is far from being the most user friendly website and I seriously doubt I’m going to see a SURGE in leads from AutoTrader now that they are partnered with MSN autos.

Nice Ad though!!

The Cobalt Group – Dealer Website Vendor Profile

Company Name:
The Cobalt Group
Phone: 1-866-289-2786
Online Since: April 17th, 1995
Location: Seattle, WA

Homepage Title Tag: "Auto dealer website design & automotive CRM software from The Cobalt Group, offering dealership marketing services”

Current Rankings:
PageRank: 5/10

Message from The Cobalt Group about their dealer website services:

For more than a decade, Cobalt’s exclusive mission has been to help automobile dealers and manufacturers increase their retailing effectiveness and profits. Cobalt is leading the industry with innovative marketing services, superb customer service, and unmatched industry experience.

Predicting the Internet would bring significant change to the way people advertised, bought and sold goods and services, John Holt co-founded The Cobalt Group in 1995. He was co-CEO until January 2000; since then he has served as the company’s sole president and CEO.

Under Mr. Holt’s guidance Cobalt has become a significant partner to the North American automotive industry. Cobalt provides automotive retailing applications and services to more than half the auto dealers in North America and nearly thirty automobile manufacturers. Cobalt’s industry-leading automotive retailing solutions span the customer lifecycle, helping dealers spend their marketing dollars more efficiently while maximizing the value of their prospects and customers.

Comments and Feedback – Do you have experience with The Cobalt Group and their dealer website design services? If so, please share your comments and feedback about their services. Keep your comments professional!

Mazda encourages consumers to Haggle?

Mazda allows haggling on Website – Automotive News

Mazda North American Operations has upgraded its Internet site so that vehicle shoppers can get a price quote from a dealership without leaving their desk.

Most factory sites lead interested buyers to a dealership’s site and will only list the sticker price. But the site allows Web surfers to contact a Mazda "shopping assistant" via a live Web chat session. The assistant is a Mazda employee.

The program went live today. (July 9, 2007)

With help from the assistant, Web surfers can configure a vehicle, select a dealership, search vehicle inventory, obtain a price quote, schedule a sales appointment and get financing information.

Once a price is agreed upon between the customer and the dealership, the assistant arranges for papers to be signed and the vehicle to be delivered at the dealership.

What do you guys think of this? I’m not sure how I feel about it really. I doubt the process is not as smooth as the above paragraph reads. I read somewhere how it took over 10 minutes to contact a Mazda Rep on the online chat.


Choose your model.

Choose from up to 3 dealers to receive a price quote from.

AutoBlog posted this article on their site and it’s interesting to read peoples comments.

"Excellent idea. Why not take the stealerships out of the picture
entirely and ship direct to Mazda "service centers" where the car can
be test driven, picked up, and serviced?"

"This is exactly what I’ve been saying should happen for years. The auto retail channel (and real estate agents, for that matter) are basically a Mafia of Dinosaurs in this age of information. There is simply NO REASON for them anymore."

"This is a baby step in the right direction. Cars sales and brand
loyalty would build quickly if the process was more like buying a TV
and less like selling your first born."

I remember when I was selling Mazda several years ago and MazdaUSA had introduced their Dealer Inventory Search (catering to the larger dealers) on their website, I was not convinced this was a good move from the dealers perspective.

It’s at tough call; from the dealers side I find this to hinder my opportunity to sell more cars BUT from the consumer side, I would totally be on board with researching my next vehicle purchase, finding the car I want to buy and contacting the dealer for a price quote, all from the convenience of the Manufacturers Website. But then again, I can’t imagine purchasing my next vehicle like shopping at Walmart and having to deal
with a customer service rep that makes $5.00 an hour and could careless
about my needs! 

Is Mazda making it more difficult for dealers to make money by simply making the process easier for its customers?

Is Mazda taking a step in the right direction?

How long will the "New Car salesperson" position be around?

The Weekly Refresh – ThinkDigital07, CallCommand,

Daily_refresh_iconI hope everyone had an eventful June and July 4th!! Made some money and pushed some metal.

Here is The Weekly Refresh:

  • Jumpstart Automotive Media’s VP of product development addresses the key automotive concerns discussed at ThinkDigital07.

When 35 members of the publisher, agency and auto dealer communities gathered in Napa recently for Jumpstart Automotive Media’s ThinkDigital07 event, the conversation was fluid, and voices were eager to be heard. We covered numerous topics that I’ll highlight here…

  • CallCommand acquires portion of Autobytel for $7.6 million
  • Autobytel’s
  • consumer Web site, was launched in a Beta version. Sort of a 2.0 Social networking website for car enthusiasts and consumers. Good idea, maybe..but the site is NOT 2.0.

Generators Vs. Aggregators: Who’s got the Glenngarry Glen Ross?

Buying leads at their origin versus buying them from one of the big third-parties.

Now that I’m about to bring on my third lead generating vendor, I thought I’d probe the DealerRefresh community for their thoughts on the choice between buying leads at their origin versus buying them from one of the big third-parties. I’m very much on the fence myself, and usually it just comes down to whether or not I think the vendor’s program works for me.

For those of you, who have never bothered to consider the pros and cons of each camp, let me present some ingredients for the debate:

  • Lead generators have a web site- or network of sites- that reel in consumers via SEO, PPC, and other advertising, and subsequently sell that lead to a dealer.
  • Lead aggregators buy leads from the premier sources in the industry, like Edmunds and KBB. While most aggregators also generate some “original” leads of their own, purchased leads constitute the majority of their business.
  • Most generators will sell you their lead exclusively, as opposed to aggregators who are usually going to sell their acquired lead to several dealers. This sounds like a great benefit, until you consider that consumers often submit leads to several sites. So that exclusive customer information you think you have could easily have already gone to your competition a few days ago via a different web site. Think about the  brand awareness of consumer sites and you’ll quickly understand how a consumer could go to Edmunds or KBB first to submit their lead, and then decide later on to google “Honda dealers in NY” and end up at one of the other lead generators’ sites. So in theory, if your generated lead isn’t the only lead that customer sent, it’s probably old information to your competition.
  • Lead costs should hypothetically be lower coming from a generator, because there’s one less middleman to get paid. However, depending on the vendor’s program, you could easily pay more for generated leads than aggregated ones… I pay anywhere from $16 to $21 for my generated leads. There’s really no consistency here, as the primary factor in lead cost is the intensity of the program (i.e. closing ratio guarantees, buyer status updates, 800# tracking, etc). Nevertheless, if you have a fetish for paying the lowest possible price for a customer’s information, a lead generator is the way to go.

Anyone have some experiences to share? While I believe it all depends on the vendor, part of me wants to be able to say that one of these sides of the fence is greener than the other.

Mitch Turck
Internet Director – JelMAC Auto Group