Opinions & Advice

Are our manufacturers worse than we are?

Frustrated_2This morning I sat through a training/refresher course hosted by the Central Atlantic Toyota’s Internet ad agency, PIVNet. Usually I loathe these types of meetings, but Toyota does things so pro-actively I enjoy theirs.

As an employee of a dealer group who carries multiple franchises, I get to work with many different automotive “cultures.” Of the manufacturers I work with, nobody does Internet marketing as well as Toyota. They are leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. They do not dictate which third party vendors a dealer must use (Scion being the exception), and they do not cram a ton of compliancy standards down our throats. Do not get me wrong, Toyota has compliancy standards, but those standards make sense. Toyota contributes DMA money toward dealers’ Internet expenses and provide numerous things to help dealers be better online.

Why are other manufacturers so far behind in this regard? Some manufacturers actually handicap our ability to do business by forcing so many things upon us. It makes me believe some manufacturers view retail sales as a very simple business, and dealers are just lazy or incompetent. Why do some manufacturers force us to use their CRM tool, their site design company, and change compliancy standards for the Internet? I can understand some circumstances of the past when dealers fought the Internet, but this is not fully the case today. Why do these manufacturers continue to practice old-school ruler-slapping? Why not just take the approach they had before the Internet: if you don’t sell the cars, and keep up your customer service, we take your franchise away? Give us some compliancy standards, and step back. Or better yet, take the Toyota approach and help!

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
  • N
  • May 23, 2007
Yes Jeffrey, you are so correct. Toyota does it better than anyone! When I was in the car business and managed one of if not the largest automotive internet sales departments in the Southeast, I had many a meeting with Southeast Toyota (SET). Look at some of the Toyota dealers website here in the southeast. They have that picture that you were talking about the other day for each of their new cars at port in FL.

They don't leave it up to the dealer to decide if they want to put pictures of their new car inventory up...Southeast Toyota does it for them.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • May 23, 2007
Neil, props to Alex Snyder over at Checkered Flag for this posting. No credit here to be taken.
  • J
    Jeff Larsen
  • May 24, 2007
So true...

There must be a way for manufacturers to track the internet traffic to the dealerships regardless of what CRM tool is being used.

Out the few main CRM companies, one would think the manufacturers would set up their own utility to accept monthly results from the dealerships CRM tool for tracking, then reward or exclude promo dollars accordingly.
Nissan also does a good job of this... the SET regional is ahead in Toyota as far as internet and web services goes. I love there snappy nextgen.toyotaweb.org eBrochures web service, new inventory and inventory search... If every OEM implemented inventory search like SET one would not have to lock inventory, as discussed by Jeff in previous post.

However if every OEM went that way it would be bad news for eVox, Chrome, JATO and parts of IzmoProduct new car product line.

I am in agreement with all of you. A few salesman and I just had a discussion regarding " living the old school way " at other dealerships. There is no telling when they will crack out of the old habits and start getting more involved with the Internet and Website advertising etc for their own dealership.
I get great support from Honda and their Interactive Networking tool. Getting great support for how important it is for Internet / web advertising from my GM's is a great benefit for my Internet Departments & helps a lot!

** You can break the habit of the old school way, only when they're ready to break it **

I am recently new to the domestic manufacturer side of things, and have found that I don't really like being told what products and services that I can use. Due to a co-op that my dealership group is financially chained to, we have been tied to a company that in my opinion is antiquated in its technology. On top of that, as the Internet Manager, I am constantly bombarded with calls from reps of this particular company trying to sell me some other seemingly useless product or service that I probably don't really need. They do however always tell me, "Did I mention that this service is 100% co-opable?”I do agree with most of what has been said, the manufacturers tend to treat the dealerships like a small child that can't cross the street without holding an adult's hand. I think that the majority of the people that do make decisions for the dealerships regarding internet products and processes are intelligent enough to be able to navigate through the vendors, and should be allowed to choose the ones that work best for their situation. What works for a high volume city dealership may not work for a small town family dealership, yet the manufacturer wants to treat all of them the same. It is definitely something that manufacturers need to reconsider.
Umer stated that he thinks Nissan does a great job as well... I don't agree at all with this statement, and perhaps that has something to do with the manufacturer's mindset: to some dealers, "a great job" from the manufacturer is staying the hell out of the way... to others, a great job means telling them what CRM tool to use, because they don't know anything about CRMs and have no interest in using them other than to satisfy other parties.

To discuss the business models and sales disciplines of "dealers" in one broad stroke is a grossly prejudiced notion. If you're an old school guy and your GM is shoving new technologies and standards down your throat, you can pack your things and walk down the street to a dealer who still sells like it's 1997. How can you refer to that industry in the collective sense?

Given that situation, think about the millions of dollars any manufacturer spends on branding, advertising, market research, and statistics. They've got their identity and strategies running smoothly(well, relatively smoothly)... maybe it's not the smartest thing to cram compliance down a dealer's throat, but when you've shelled out all that cash to run your business a certain way, it's certainly better for your peace of mind to align the dealers with your own approach than to let them run rampant and hope for the best.

Let's also keep in mind that anyone commenting on this artlce is 1) Internet savvy, and 2) probably pretty damn good at their job. If you could drag a few old timers to this post and let them comment, I'd bet the argument would swing the other way, because they'd rather have the manufacturer figure this "Internet" thing out for them. We're more than a bit biased here... most dealers in the country don't have personnel in the same strata as ourselves.
Ahhh... Mitch,
Whointhehell writes your blog? Wow, if it's you, you're in wrong biz! Let's can that and re-sell it!


You're probably correct, but I think the Automotive Dealers of today have at least accepted the Internet is not going anywhere. Many more are on their game than ever before, and that increases daily. I believe some of the manufacturers are slowing us down from playing in this competitive world today. Sure, a few years ago their programs were an absolute necessity. They were certainly ahead of the "dealer pack" in coming to the "Internet realization", and some are still. However, the early 2000's policies have not changed while the industry has.

Yes, the top percentages of the automotive Internet industry may be participating on DealerRefresh, but we're still missing quite a few: Koons, Galpin, Longo, etc. Of course, Checkered Flag is here so we're all good :)

Anyway, I would love to see some of our manufacturers crack the whip a little softer in this area. I would be unbelievably ecstatic if they all developed the same approach Toyota took.

Thanks for the responses so far. Feel free to take this thread deeper - we have not dived into specific manufacturers who do a bad job (other than Nissan).

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • June 5, 2007

Great posting. I too would like to see more ISM’s comment on how well they think their manufacturers are doing with their online marketing presence.

I think overall Mercedes-Benz does a decent job. I use the word decent lightly because there is a lot more they could and should be doing.

Being apart of the Mercedes-Benz Internet Marketing Dealer Advisory Committee I see where Mercedes-Benz is focusing a lot their online marketing efforts. I know the new MBUSA.com website is going to be a huge improvement over the current. Redesigned dealer OEM sites are also in the near future. They are hardly spending the amount they should be on online marketing but the “new crew” over at Mercedes-Benz corporate that is in charge of online marketing are trying desperately to change this. I can only imagine how difficult it is to deal with the old school German mentality of Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have a choice BUT to be aggressive with their online marketing. Their direct competition all but crushes them when it comes to internet efforts from the manufacture and dealer level.

Can you say Lexus? Lexus seems to do a better job then any other premium vehicle manufacture in the United States (I’d give Audi a close second but only on the manufacturer advertising level). I know Mercedes-Benz USA does recognize this and will continue to push forward. They just need to better tap into the younger market. The new C-Class can and I hope will do this. It’s the prime opportunity to do so.

Ah yes, The mfg.Crm tool. What always amazes me is when they start to present this tool they always go to the dealer principal with response times. Then the Ism pulls the report , takes it to the Gm and shows the response times are in line. But, they never match the Mfg's clock. I always ask what metrics were used to formulate this clock from a variety of lead sources and really never get an answer back. In fact many times after deep research I have actually found that leads took the longest arriving from many Mfg's programs. They only start the clock, when they forward to you. I would like to see their response time!
  • L
  • June 7, 2007
What I don't understand is why the manufacturer forces us to use vendors for our dealer websites that use Flash and Frames and are not SEO friendly. If we want to make our Flash website SEO friendly, we have to pay extra for this service. I considered going out on my own and not using the manufacturer's vendor, but then we lose our Dealer Website Link on the manufacturer's site. Now, all of the dealers in our market have similar websites. Any advice?

The automotive industry is starting to catch on to the fact that online marketing is the future, but the "recommended" vendors and the vendors so highly praised in the dealer publications are outrageously expensive. The online marketing vendors exclusive to the automotive industry charge 10 times more than other industries. They want to charge thousands of dollars per month to host websites, manage email marketing and SEO. Why would I want to pay my website vendor thousands per month to "optimize" my Flash website. Shouldn't that be included? Why not use a different platform? And I don't even want to go on about the outrageous fees for managing SEM. Even if the manufacturer co-ops 50% of your Google budget, you still have to pay their vendor an outrageous fee to manage the SEM for you. Anyone else relate to this?
I totally agree, the last thing I wanted was to look like every other competitor. We're 80% done with http://www.breseechevrolet.com/

I'd like to take a minute to thank all the other web site providers for making it easy for me to dominate our local SEO rankings.

Just curious who your account manager is over at dealer.com.
I really like your website and I am curious how you went about setting it up. I use dealer.com as well.


My email address is axsnyder @ Checkeredflag dot com - I'm more than happy to discuss Dealer.com with you. How's the young Swope? I had fun hanging out with him at the last smart Car meeting.

By the way, I just got back from two days at Dealer.com headquarters in Vermont - great bunch of people, very cool facility.....I had a great time! Some cool stuff in the works - be on the lookout for a new Checkered Flag.com!
Cindy at Dealer.com mentioned that when I spoke to her on Friday.
I will be in touch with you shortly. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with me.
Not sure which Swope your talking about.....quite a few of them in these parts that dabble in the car business; 22 franchises spread through the state, last time I counted. ;)