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  • L
    Lao Shi
  • October 30, 2007

How many more years will they/can they continue to increase the price they charge and add little or nothing new to the game except a little hype and new skins

If they are going to continue to raise prices they must offer somthing worthy of the increase.

They need to move their operations to another country where there are less expensive operational costs and roll back their prices to the clients

Many people list their vehicles for sale on autotrader.com. They spend time and money then receive phone calls from other companies offering to sell their car for a fee. So they pay Auto Trader to list their car for these other companies to see and call to solicit.

This is a complaint you hear a lot.

At some point Autotrader will just run out of room.

T
  • T
  • October 30, 2007
Ahhhh finally free from the spin, greed, and corporate B.S.

I use to work for AutoTrader.com and have read this blog for the last year and half agreeing with 99% of what was said but never had the chance to finally express how right all of you are. The funny thing is without your inventory there would be no AutoTrader.com. However, they (they = AutoTrader.com Mgt./corp) only care about making more money every year.

Is this a bad thing.. not really we all want to make money right? But they have done it in such a way that they could care less if you cancel because "you will be back" and "your business will hurt without them". Guess what. Pricing will continue to rise more and more, bells and whistles will be added but will not increase your sales as much as the rate increase. Also, expect new products or solutions that ask for "Newspaper money" you are currently spending.

Another thing.. Cox owns AutoTrader.com and... guess what else they own that has been a great topic of discussion recently (Automart.com). (Coincidence that all of sudden they are now appearing as high as they are on "J.D. Power" hmmmm.. that's interesting... And don't leave out AutoExtra.com (look at the bottom of the home page and click careers- says "Cox AutoTrader), Manheim Auto Auctions, Cox Radio, Cox Media, Atlanta Constitutional Newspaper, AutoTrader Mag and the list goes on. So when you look at your advertising mix and how many times is Cox getting your money over and over again every month from all of these "separate" acting entities?

Yet.. let me guess what you will hear from your Reps... Exposure, Exposure, Exposure.. when at first it was leads leads leads and how they can track everything (except Walk ins right?). Sounds like when the newspaper went from Circulation, Circulation, Circulation to now "Readership"

Welcome to the spin factor and get ready and be prepared for rate increases every year... This is coming from a rep that was there for almost 2 years. Of course, my opinion... and admittedly left because I as an employee went from a first class citizen to a lower class, order taker, and renewal/contract robot.

If you ever get sick of spending thousands and thousands a month there are many other internet related initiatives you can take. One of which is pay per click campaigns with Google which I'm helping dealers with currently.

Your website is your highest rate of return typically, why not invest in that. And before I get the "autotrader.com, cars.com drive people to the website" yes I agree they do. However, they also go to your competitors sites that are on there, and if you took half of what you spend monthly with these sites and strictly targeted keywords your clicks would be double, triple, sometimes even more and they are only going to your website and inventory.

S
Come on you guys! AutoTrader needs to increase your rates, so they can continue to sponsor NFL half-time shows and cool stuff like that.

What's that saying...? "Better products through marketing."

Just like Bose speakers sound great in the specifically designed room at the mall store, then not so good in your house. AutoTrader leads come from a popular, well known brand, but when you close 2% of $2500 worth of leads, you're really paying $2500 to waste 98% of your time.
K
Each of us has a limited "pot of gold" to spend each month towards our marketing efforts, and selecting the best source of leads that lead to sales is the ultimate goal - correct? To do that, one must measure their ROI each month on their lead sources, and identify what marketing efforts work, and which ones do not. For us, AutoTrader performs the same as Cars.com (almost dead on for leads, calls, and views/impressions), yet AutoTrader costs 3-4 times more than Cars.com. Do we get 3-4 times better performance with AutoTrader? No. Does AutoTrader and Cars.com perform better than several other lead providers? Yes (especially AutoMart, which ranks almost dead last for us with year to date results). AutoTrader has also barraged us with "take your newspaper money and spend it with us". More than ever, our marketing dollars are a limited resource, and smart dealers must spend them wisely. The problem is that most dealers are not "smart" - ask your typical dealer what the top 10 auto websites are with the most hits? Most will answer that AutoTrader is #1. WRONG. End of year results for 2006 show that eBay Motors was number one by a huge margin, and that AutoTrader was #4. Understanding that, we want to have AutoTrader as part of our equation, but the price must be right for the results. Our smaller rooftops (with a smaller budget) use Cars.com over AutoTrader, because it gives them the same results for a MUCH lower price. I will say on AutoTrader's behalf that installing CRM's at our locations has helped us track the "walk-ins" that result from AutoTrader. It is not a huge number, but this allowed us to better measure the overall ROI for AutoTrader. Conclusion - if you want to sell us on higher rates that are 3-4 times higher than other providers that can give us the same results, you need to to show us how your service will give us 3-4 times more benefit... - Kevin Frye
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  • T
    TJ
  • October 31, 2007
Last year with Autotrader.com premium top tiered listings ran a rate of $2900 a month. This year it's $5600. Same size audience, same response metrics as others have mentioned, some bells & whistles but ROI has dwindled. They must've penetrated the market pretty sufficiently and are looking strictly at raising revenues from existing dealers willing to pay except many in our immed area are not willing to pay exhorbitant rates for the top tiered products anymore. Who's stepped down to the middle tirered products with them and noticed little or no change in call rates/ROI? Tell us your experience in this please.
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  • G
    Gary Butler
  • October 31, 2007
What is the saying about a fool and his money? Any Jack Ass foolish enought o spend a dime on with AutoTrader/AutoMart.....etc..deserves to lose it. Who in their right mind would do it? Justify it any way you want, but AutoTrader and their ilk suck.
T
  • T
    TJ
  • October 31, 2007
Autotrader.com used to be worth the ROI received from it at the previous rates from 2 years ago but is hardly worth the price increase justifications they now attempt to get from us now. We generate more & more ROI from our website and SEO thru our manuf on new & pre-owned vehicles than we ever did before. How to they actually expect the price increases to be justified when those of us paying attention to the performance metrics now it's all double speak? They tout themselves as "marketing" and not "lead generation" well guess what? if you're not generating any "leads" for us in comparison to the price of the products, we're going to spend the money elsewhere to "market" our vehicles & dealership. They've put the horse way ahead of the cart this time around. Anyone also notice they're looking for sales staff all over the place these days? not to hard to imagine seeing how things are going w/them.
A
Gary,

Thanks for your comments. I agree with some of the things you're saying, but not the way you're saying it. Would you mind keeping posts constructive?

Thanks!


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  • G
    Gary Butler
  • October 31, 2007
Big Al,

I can be a little crass for sure, but I got to call 'em like I see 'em. The questions are asked and I have to give my answer and sometimes they are as blunt as a sledge hammer. I will chill out, but if its a fire brand question, you know I can't always hold back.
D
Come on Shaun! My Bose speakers sound just fine in my family room.... It seems like most dealerships feel the same about Autotrader but why do we continue to feed the beast. TJ was right-on about his comment regarding the inventory but Autotrader isn't the only one that does this, they just charge more than anyone else...

Dealerships have allowed multiple vendors to get rich at our expense. We have the assets, pay the light bills, employee expense, rent, etc. and must live with tight margins. Certain vendors use our inventory, our real estate, our brand, to profit (at much larger margins) and grow their business. Take two minutes and really think about the 3rd party lead business model and it will make you sick. The paid-search business model isn't any better because vendors have us competing against each other, tier two money (which is ours), and tier one (our partners?).

Back to Autotrader. Autotrader will continue to raise their prices because dealers continue to pay those prices. The only way that AT will stop the increase is if dealers cancel and new deals stop coming in. We can stop this madness by investing in our own sites, building great content and a positive buying experience, and making our inventory presentable and searchable online. Remember, it's our commodity that we are selling.
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  • L
    Lightnup
  • October 31, 2007
Maybe this helps explain things:

ATLANTA (Business Wire EON) October 31, 2007 -- AutoTrader.com (www.autotrader.com), the ultimate automotive marketplace, was once again rated as the most useful automotive site among used-car buyers who visited the site in the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Used Autoshopper.com study, released October 25. This marks the fourth consecutive year AutoTrader.com has attained this rating.


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  • C
    C.H.
  • October 31, 2007
A.T. does this because they can. Other providers get their visitors from a better quality source that is more local. Cars.Com is everywhere and in front of people locally and nationally and that just draws better.... oh ya, at a way better ROI! Plus, all the "partners" that AT braggs about don't amount to squat. Anyone can look up the numbers. KBB, MSN and other all draw people for reasons other than car shopping.(hotmail, news, etc) The only auto channel on the rise is Yahoo! and AT lost that one. As a consumer (of A.T.)money speaks, I don't spend with them, then the price hike doesn't effect me. Plus it feels good to go to a cheaper, better way of doing things! (Cars.com and local seo)
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  • T
    TJ
  • October 31, 2007
Maybe this helps explain things:

ATLANTA (Business Wire EON) October 31, 2007 -- AutoTrader.com (www.autotrader.com), the ultimate automotive marketplace, was once again rated as the most useful automotive site among used-car buyers who visited the site in the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Used Autoshopper.com study, released October 25. This marks the fourth consecutive year AutoTrader.com has attained this rating.

Hows this explain twice the rate of their largest competitor for the same measured ROI for the past 18 months? Is it me or does Autotrader.com merely pontificate off of JD Powers every year in an attempt to justify 80% price increases in some cases? Not working with us this year that much I can tell you. "Usefull" is great but when the rubber hits the road as it were Autotrader isn't justifying it's cost per month with ROI in our store anymore nor has it for the last several months. Our call numbers are not justifying an 80% price increase, what does JD Powers have to say about that I wonder?
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
"...left because I as an employee went from a first class citizen to a lower class, order taker, and renewal/contract robot" Just wanted to take a moment to clarify that the lions share of these recently implemented price increases are not finding their way into the current sales staff of ATC's pockets either. It's purely a corporate greed strategy to make yearly numbers. They've lost many good veteran sales people from the remarkable corp greed attitude in the place, it stinks in here.

G
  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
"...left because I as an employee went from a first class citizen to a lower class, order taker, and renewal/contract robot" Just wanted to take a moment to clarify that the lions share of these recently implemented price increases are not finding their way into the current sales staff of ATC's pockets either. It's purely a corporate greed strategy to make yearly numbers. They've lost many good veteran sales people from the remarkable corp greed attitude in the place, it stinks in here.

G
  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
"...left because I as an employee went from a first class citizen to a lower class, order taker, and renewal/contract robot" Just wanted to take a moment to clarify that the lions share of these recently implemented price increases are not finding their way into the current sales staff of ATC's pockets either. It's purely a corporate greed strategy to make yearly numbers. They've lost many good veteran sales people from the remarkable corp greed attitude in the place, it stinks in here.

J
  • J
  • October 31, 2007
Boy, seems like this topic comes up about once a year and creates a firestorm. Let's see, once a year the topic comes up, the Autotrader.com renewal rates increase once a year...coincidence? What I find interesting is that dealers always go off like this when they're up for renewal but they quiet down for about 11 months after that, almost like a boxer takin' one on the chin, talking a little trash, and then falling to the canvas.

I worked at Autotrader.com for a couple of years too, and like TJ said, the corporate mentality is that "they'll be back eventually". I'm in the process of compiling some data, but the preliminary results show that overall leads per vehicle are down from the previous year - not just down a little here, up a little there, but down in an amount that is statistically significant.

So this begs the question: why do dealers continue to use Autotrader.com more than any other site?

I think the answer is fairly simple. Although the ROI may be flat, or even as it seems to be trending toward ROI losses year over year, Autotrader.com does have the highest traffic numbers. In the end it's still a good deal (in most cases) compared to other media because there IS a return on investment. Does this mean you shouldn't be angry? Of course not - I would be furious and would probably cancel on principle if I were a dealer. There is however still value to Autotrader.com, even though that value seems to become less each year.

The question of whether you should pay the rate increases or cancel is a tough decision. Sure, marketing money could be spread around effectively if done properly, but your competition will get some of those deals that you would have closed if you were on there too. For this reason I have been recommending a lot of our clients downgrade their packages with Autotrader instead of cancelling altogether. Customers go there for one reason - to find a car. When you can pay $2000/month or $1200/month to have your inventory listed in the same section of the site, it only makes sense to downgrade.
A
David Metter - nice post. I’m a big fan of a competent competitor, and am looking forward to seeing MileOne get more involved in the Southern Virginia market. On top of that, thanks for looking out for ole' Jeff! Your post cracked me up because I had a meeting with AutoTrader.com last Friday evening in my boss' office. We were meeting with them because we were not happy with the results we were getting for our recent Premium-AT.com-market-tests at the new rates. We are actually seeing less response on the premium level than we saw on the standard level. That is besides the point. The funny part about the whole meeting was from the "Dealer Group" AT rep saying "David Metter, of MileOne, was in the same shoes you're in Alex. He wanted to cancel everything. Since I started working with him he has become one of AutoTrader.com's biggest fans."

I was going to wait before posting my own experiences with AutoTrader.com, but I couldn’t stand not putting the AT rep’s statement to me out there after David’s post.

We’ve been on and off with AutoTrader for years. With the turn-over of dealership personnel, the industry is full of short memories and second chances, and we are no exception. All it takes is a new GM on the dealership level or a stronger AT sales rep to get AutoTrader back in the door. Then it is the same thing all over again.

I believe AutoTrader preys on high dealer turn-over and also preys on their own high turn-over amongst their sales reps. How many AutoTrader.com reps have you had in the past 3 years? I’ll bet AutoTrader wins the award for highest turn-over in sales reps amongst all third party lead providers. Yep, that’s right, I called AutoTrader.com a “third party lead provider”. Newsflash AutoTrader: you’re playing on the Internet, you’re trying to get customers to call and email dealerships, and you’re trying to deliver traffic to a dealer’s website. Yes, you’re also putting customers on the lot, but we all know that cannot be tracked effectively. At the end of the day you fit my definition of a “third party lead provider”, so accept it and let’s not have that argument ever again. Yes, that also means I’m going to rank you against Cars.com, AutoUSA, Dealix, and all those other things we have allocated to the…..drum roll please….”INTERNET BUDGET”.

We just recently signed our Honda and Toyota stores up. Toyota was a deal cut through our regional Toyota ad agency, so it doesn’t cost us anything to be on AutoTrader for the standard service. Honda was signed up as a test. We had some extra money left over from a radio campaign allowing us to “experiment” with a few different Internet ventures. Our Hyundai/VW location was already on board, so I am using this opportunity to really see if AutoTrader is worth the money at their higher price points (compared to when we participated at half the price). We have made some internal changes to make our online inventory list stronger/better since the last time we were a premium AT dealer, so I think this is going to be very telling of how well AT works today. They have one more month on my test program.

So far, I’m actually receiving less leads/phone calls as a premium dealer than I was as a standard dealer. I still have the same issues with Atlanta, and the same stories from my reps. We get a whole lot of looks on cars that were going to sell anyway: older, cheaper, foreign cars…..cars that don’t even need to be marketed. The things we need to market don’t get any extra exposure I can track – phone calls and emails. The response from AutoTrader is “you have to list your specials, you have to get into our tool to monitor what is selling in your market…..blah, blah, blah, blah”. My response will never change: “why do I have to pay you to do more work myself?”

To re-summarize my 2007 “test-run” of AutoTrader.com: It has given me fewer leads than I had back when I was with them from 2004 to 2005. I have less than half the leads I receive from Cars.com. I have to log-in to another friggin’ back-end tool to see what is going on. I am still fighting with my rep. I am still asking the question of “why”. I still remember that I saw absolutely 0 change in the number of cars we sold after we cancelled AutoTrader last time. It still isn’t helping me sell the inventory I actually need help with.

I feel like I am giving AutoTrader the biggest effort I’ve ever given them, this time around, but the results are going to be the same.
J
  • J
  • October 31, 2007
Oh, and by the way, I too "left because I as an employee went from a first class citizen to a lower class, order taker, and renewal/contract robot". I think this speaks volumes to where Autotrader is headed, led by management robots, who are in turn led by upper management robots.
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
Used to be about "Dealer relationships" he he, not when the turnover is what it is and the average stay of a rep w/ATC is most likely about 1.5 years! Succesful sales people leave this company for a reason, they are as sick & tired of playing the shell games as the dealer customers are of playing it. Raise rates 80% to take into account the growing churn percentages, yeah, that makes sense????
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
Used to be about "Dealer relationships" he he, not when the turnover is what it is and the average stay of a rep w/ATC is most likely about 1.5 years! Succesful sales people leave this company for a reason, they are as sick & tired of playing the shell games as the dealer customers are of playing it. Raise rates 80% to take into account the growing churn percentages, yeah, that makes sense????
G
  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
Used to be about "Dealer relationships" he he, not when the turnover is what it is and the average stay of a rep w/ATC is most likely about 1.5 years! Succesful sales people leave this company for a reason, they are as sick & tired of playing the shell games as the dealer customers are of playing it. Raise rates 80% to take into account the growing churn percentages, yeah, that makes sense????
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
Somebody at Autotraders getting paid fat, all I know is that it's not the Reps on the street thats for damn sure. To call this place a career would be stretching it, you're lucky if you can figure out what you're going to make quarter to quarter these days let alone trying to figure out if theres enough biz in your area left to stick it out a year or two. Just like the percentages of the price increases dealers are dealt, they don't care. Going to be left w/nothing but robots pretty soon if not already.
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
Somebody at Autotraders getting paid fat, all I know is that it's not the Reps on the street thats for damn sure. To call this place a career would be stretching it, you're lucky if you can figure out what you're going to make quarter to quarter these days let alone trying to figure out if theres enough biz in your area left to stick it out a year or two. Just like the percentages of the price increases dealers are dealt, they don't care. Going to be left w/nothing but robots pretty soon if not already.
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
Somebody at Autotraders getting paid fat, all I know is that it's not the Reps on the street thats for damn sure. To call this place a career would be stretching it, you're lucky if you can figure out what you're going to make quarter to quarter these days let alone trying to figure out if theres enough biz in your area left to stick it out a year or two. Just like the percentages of the price increases dealers are dealt, they don't care. Going to be left w/nothing but robots pretty soon if not already.
T
  • T
  • October 31, 2007
It is great to finally post on Jeff's site with all of you. You have all been correct for years and being in the spin zone was very difficult. Luckily, I didn't buy into the hype and wanted to be a true "consultant" giving my dealer clients an unbiased view. And even when I was with AT.com I told them to take different internet related initiatives. It's funny how all their training is about Radio, TV, and Print but they never talk about competitors (Dealix, Cars.com, Carsoup.com, and "online" competitors)

Bottomline, they will continue hire and turn more people that are happy making less money each year and becoming a "service/contract renewal/up selling robots" to the same 30 dealers in each territory, spouting Exposure and staying away from "leads" terminology having no clue about keeping the client's best interest before thiers, and they will keep raising rates until Dealers don't accept them anymore.

When a customer searches for a car as I have many times and they start narrowing down their choices after using many online resources they are going to contact you whether you are in the free standard listings or Premium listings if you have that specific car at the best value.
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  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
"Bottomline, they will continue hire and turn more people that are happy making less money each year and becoming a "service/contract renewal/up selling robots" to the same 30 dealers in each territory, spouting Exposure and staying away from "leads" terminology having no clue about keeping the client's best interest before thiers, and they will keep raising rates until Dealers don't accept them anymore"
I'm tired of the kool aid drinking. The pay plans now are no way as lucrative as they once were by the way (think at least 30% less comp & much smaller territory) Spin, spin, spin, where would autotrader be w/out it? Retention of sales staff is poor because if they're anything like me, I don't believe half of what ever comes out of an execs mouth at this place.

G
  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
"Bottomline, they will continue hire and turn more people that are happy making less money each year and becoming a "service/contract renewal/up selling robots" to the same 30 dealers in each territory, spouting Exposure and staying away from "leads" terminology having no clue about keeping the client's best interest before thiers, and they will keep raising rates until Dealers don't accept them anymore"
I'm tired of the kool aid drinking. The pay plans now are no way as lucrative as they once were by the way (think at least 30% less comp & much smaller territory) Spin, spin, spin, where would autotrader be w/out it? Retention of sales staff is poor because if they're anything like me, I don't believe half of what ever comes out of an execs mouth at this place.

G
  • G
    Good Ol' Boy
  • October 31, 2007
"Bottomline, they will continue hire and turn more people that are happy making less money each year and becoming a "service/contract renewal/up selling robots" to the same 30 dealers in each territory, spouting Exposure and staying away from "leads" terminology having no clue about keeping the client's best interest before thiers, and they will keep raising rates until Dealers don't accept them anymore"
I'm tired of the kool aid drinking. The pay plans now are no way as lucrative as they once were by the way (think at least 30% less comp & much smaller territory) Spin, spin, spin, where would autotrader be w/out it? Retention of sales staff is poor because if they're anything like me, I don't believe half of what ever comes out of an execs mouth at this place.

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  • F
    Flanders
  • October 31, 2007
wow, seems the sales staff at autotrader is just as frustrated as we the dealerships are in dealing with them. My sales guy is good but he's also mentioned he's not aware of how long he's willing to stick it out with them either, somethings up it looks like. Ever try to call their corp number for service issue instead of your local rep? it's a trip to say the least!
J
  • J
    JL
  • October 31, 2007
I am a current ATC employee and I can assure you it is tough to go into a dealer and request some of the recent rate increases and I overcome most of these objections because I sell the value of ATC and what it actually brings to dealers. It gives the dealer exposure to their entire inventory, allows the dealer to market his brand and his dealership and bottom line helps the dealer sell cars. We all know like any other advertising medium ATC doesn't work in all markets. So if some of you are in those markets, I understand your frustration. I would also like to point out, if the dealer doesn't have the right inventory, inventory consumers are looking for the results will not be as rewarding either. Also, the dealer has to take responsibility by making sure you have the right person responding to phone calls and emails and have a good system in place for those walk up consumers to be sourced and the sale contributed to AutoTrader.com. ATC works, the dealer must do his part by taking great photos, marketing the cars through comments, and being a price competitive as possible. Garbage in.....Garbage out! I have been with the company for over 3 years and I can assure you the sales people that only stick around for a short period of time are ones that don't like corporate structure and can't stand the pressure of a true "sales organization". Working for ATC can be stressful, but it is extremly rewarding. If you have a good relationship with your customers your life will be a lot easier. Dealers please take what I have said into consideration, know it is just as much your repsonsibility, if not more, if you are not successful with ATC. Also, haven't we seen a nationwide decline in auto sales? It isn't ATC's fault we have seen this decline. Continue advertising on the internet, ATC, Cars.com, dealer website and forget the rest, like newspaper, radio, tv and I promise you when consumers start buying again, you will start selling again and most of your sales are going to come from your internet advertising.
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  • I
    Internet Jeff
  • October 31, 2007
DEAR TJ:

Wow TJ, sorry to hear you had such a bad experience working for Autotrader. Instead of giving DealerRefresh readers an infomative view of your inside experience, you're just WHINING and HATING. Easy to see why you are not an employee there anymore.

Why do you care what Cox owns, how much money they make, or if they are conglomerated with newspapers? AT started as a newspaper company and had the vision at some point to progress and adapt to the newfound Internet audience. Hmmnn... now theres a concept: 'Change with the times or the times will change you'. What if the dealerships could do that?

Exposure- 24 hrs a day 7 days a week? Maybe thats why I've shipped cars all over the United States and Canada? Doesn't sound too shabby to me.

I have to assume you are not actively in the dealership in a sales process that involves internet consumers or as an Internet Manager trying to develop the department. If you were and understood how to read stats, you would see first hand how much EXPOSURE your vehicles do get, and the clicks from there on out.

Sure, if you get the right SEM company (that wont rip you off) to draw internet shoppers to you by pay-per-click- Congratulations. But now explain that process to the GM or owner and how great it works (if you can keep their attention span that long), or explain Autotrader for the same price where they saw all of their advertising at the last major sporting event and how it targets new and used vehicles.

Im a Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears fan, but I dont hate on the Red Sox and Patriots for being SUCCESSFUL, MAKING MONEY or WINNING. Instead I try to embrace what makes them all of that and learn from there.

Hate the game, not the players in it.
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  • T
    T.J.
  • November 1, 2007
Internet Jeff. I appreciate your feedback and thoughts on my posts. I agree we all want to make money and I have no disagreement with you there or about them making theirs, and as I have said AutoTrader.com does work in certain cases (standard free listings, featured, and even sometimes the partner package really depends on the market and competition and their goals) but this post was about the "price increases every year" which I have discussed with my dealers firsthand and their frustration of the increase not equaling or even close to the increasing their sales the same percentage or not being able to stay on the same packages same rates and continuing without the new 06, 07, 08 bells and whistles.

I have also seen ROI reports showing Cars.com, Dealix, and many other internet resources with higher closing and ROI percentages and were 2-3 times less of an investment.

Trust me if I wanted to hate I have a book I can write to cover everything over my last 2 years there, sorry I came off that way. My assessment/opinions are about the overall situation I experienced with my dealers not the exceptions. I haven't even touched the "inside" view as much as I could and I won't.

If you read the posts it seems to me the response has been consistent. At the end of the day its on the dealer to make the best decision for their company and budget and they will. Also, there will be many more choices " as the automotive internet vertical hasn't even come close to the tipping point.
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  • H
    Hal
  • November 1, 2007
change is constant at ATC for customers as well as sales staff, some good, alot of it bad for sales & customers. They are "running out of room" as I see it. Unless they come up with some type of "catagory killer" application in the next six month period I have a hunch they're gong to appear like the old "Emperor has no clothes" saying because the top tiered product price points are not going to float with the existing dealer base that've stuck with the price increase percentages for the last three or four years. Will a Honda dealer with 150 used units on the site suffer from downgrading product? most likely not, will the sales person suffer, you bet. One thing for sure and thats that sales staff & customers alkie never know whats going to happen next w/ATC only that its going to cost more to customers & sales.
A
JL,

What flavor is the Kool Aid over there? If we decide to stay with AutoTrader, I'm going to need some of whatever you're drinking.

However, I need your help in some other areas:

1) "ATC works, the dealer must do his part by taking great photos, marketing the cars through comments, and being a price competitive as possible. Garbage in.....Garbage out!"

Okay, I'm with you 100% here. Many products fail because we (the dealer) do not give it the effort it deserves. However, when it comes to AutoTrader it is typically given more of an effort than any other third party lead provider gets because it is such a larger investment than anything else. Please tell me why ATC's competition trumps ATC in leads even after the extra effort?

2) "We all know like any other advertising medium ATC doesn't work in all markets."

Again, I agree with you 100%. Why is AutoTrader still selling in those markets like they're the greatest thing since sliced bread?

3) "if the dealer doesn't have the right inventory, inventory consumers are looking for the results will not be as rewarding either."

You're absolutely right! But....hold on a minute....if I always had the right inventory, what would I need ATC for?

4) "Also, the dealer has to take responsibility by making sure you have the right person responding to phone calls and emails and have a good system in place for those walk up consumers to be sourced and the sale contributed to AutoTrader.com."

Yep, yep, yep. This certainly needs to happen everywhere. I'm not going to argue with you, nor bring up the costs of accomplishing that in a perfect world - the costs don't matter, this needs to get done. I wouldn't base ATC's success around this. You all know what the industry is like, work with it - don't preach this over and over again...we know.

5) "Also, haven't we seen a nationwide decline in auto sales? It isn't ATC's fault we have seen this decline."

Unfortunately, auto sales haven't been as great as they were only a few short months ago. Learn this word: "relative". ATC, as a third party lead provider, has fallen off the relative radar screen more than any other third party lead provider since the volume of vehicle sales went stagnant.

6) "Continue advertising on the internet, ATC, Cars.com, dealer website and forget the rest, like newspaper, radio, tv and I promise you when consumers start buying again, you will start selling again and most of your sales are going to come from your internet advertising."

Please tell me that flavor of Kool Aid again. I'm an automotive Internet guy to my bones. I couldn't imagine a world without the Internet. I stopped subscribing to the newspaper last year, and haven't watched a commercial since DVR came to consumers. I love my Sirius Radio....I am the anti-traditional media guy! However, I am not the norm. I still want to sell Jaguars, Porsches, Audi's, and BMW's to well-established citizens. I still want to sell cars to people who might need a little financial help. The traditional medias are not as strong as they once were, but they are still very relative. Don't forget who pays your paycheck: Cox Media.


JL,

Take none of this personally. I have nothing against you, my local rep, and not even that guy who made those outrageous claims last Friday. I was able to spit this post out in 2 minutes because I've been having the same argument with every single AutoTrader.com rep for years. Trust me, the best thing you can do is not respond in this thread again.

We all like Autotrader. We just don't like paying the prices ATC is demanding. We're also sick of the BS ATC spits in our faces as reasons for being on the product. If you want to do something to really help your clients, tell ATC they need to get real with their prices. At the same time, I don't mind letting the market determine where things should fall - I'm actually hoping I can influence it.

Lastly, I'll make a warning to the dealers reading this thread. If ATC continues to collect this raised rate from us, the rest of the third party lead providers are going to follow AutoTrader's example.
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  • S
    Svengali
  • November 1, 2007
The purple elephant in the room that Autotrader.com is deathly afraid of is Google. Whenever Google begins to market their Google Base site Autotrader will have to rethink their rate structures. They are coming late to the game with pushing new car ad products. The manuf's in conjunction w/dealer websites have been able to market new vehicles pretty well w/out them. Used vehicle advertising they are ok but have priced themselves out of the market around us for the premium listing contract at least that what everyone I speak to at the auctions thinks the past year.
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    Chris K
  • November 1, 2007
AutoTrader.com is enjoying success but you will see other successful sites come along. Most car dealership managers had old habits such as thinking autotrader is a must, and big expensive newspaper ads are a must. Part of the problem is that many of these sites like autotader are all own by corporate giants (cox) who buy all the good sites, and since most traffic is flowed through these sites, you can't help but see an autotrader, edmunds or KBB link everywhere. Myspace.com is another place people should post vehicles. We post on craigslist.com and like myspace.com, it's free. Today we signed an agreement with http://www.AutoOneMedia.com to manage our Google Adwords campaign, and they have a awesome landing page. My quick quote links everywhere will now go to my landing page. We are also thinking about doing videos and posting them on YouTube. They host it for free and now you can watch youtube movies on cell phones. I say stay creative and think outside the box. This is a fluid medium. The best car websites and process have yet to be created.... and anyone here can become a billionaire! Even me.
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    Chris K
  • November 1, 2007
P.S. All Google has to do is upload a dealers inventory for FREE, new and used, and by matching their inventory with vehicle images they can get in their voluminous image database, they can easily populate a search query based on a geographic IP match, to a users request. Google is going to crush auto trader with this sort of concept which I myself created in my mind, and now in digital form - or maybe, it's already in the works. But like someone said, Google Base will eventually migrate into something bigger that's why we're perfecting the ad words move away from lead providers, and focusing on jumping right inside the ring where the action is.
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    Frank S
  • November 1, 2007
"Google Base will eventually migrate into something bigger that's why we're perfecting the ad words move away from lead providers, and focusing on jumping right inside the ring where the action is"

Bingo. Eyeball audience is where the future lies. Autotrader has grown their audience enormously I'll give them that, but the search engine behemoths w/50 times the audience of Autotrader could eventually eat them for lunch. Name recognition id fine for Autotrader but think about this, Google has the capacity of a gargantious audience and has products like Google Base in their pipeline (been in Beta a while now) that they really haven't even publicized or marketed, if they did and decided to ever put a sales force on the street, Autotrader would melt from the heat.

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    Lightnup
  • November 1, 2007
Alex wrote: " .....Yep, that’s right, I called AutoTrader.com a “third party lead provider”. Newsflash AutoTrader: you’re playing on the Internet, you’re trying to get customers to call and email dealerships, and you’re trying to deliver traffic to a dealer’s website. Yes, you’re also putting customers on the lot, but we all know that cannot be tracked effectively. At the end of the day you fit my definition of a “third party lead provider”, so accept it and let’s not have that argument ever again. Yes, that also means I’m going to rank you against Cars.com, AutoUSA, Dealix, and all those other things we have allocated to the…..drum roll please….”INTERNET BUDGET”...."

Newspapers, magazines and radio ads try to get customers to call or email the dealer and try to deliver traffic to the dealer's website. Guess they're third party lead providers too? ATC doesn't ask for any contact info from the customer, doesn't provide any contact info to the dealer. That's a lead provider? Hmmm. Sounds like an advertiser to me.

A
Then explain why AutoTrader.com Internet inquiries end up in my CRM. Why does the phone ring with a pre-recorded "Please wait for another quality lead from Autotrader.com?" And explain why I get neither of those things from any traditional media. It is also strange to me when I see those "Contact Seller" boxes all over Autotrader.com and Get a Free Price Quote on the ATC new car listings. Maybe I'm just confused?


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    Chris K
  • November 1, 2007
AutoTrader is just like the Public Utility Companies: We pay to create, improve and sustain their infrastructure - increasing their value, allowing insiders to reap millions of dollars in profits though nifty stock option schemes... then once we do that - they rake us over the coals with exorbitant listing fees. In addition to that, they reap huge profits by selling ad space on their websites. I'd rather see an honor system in place, so when we sell a car listed on AT - they get a flat fee. Let's say $50. It's just going to be a matter of time, when someone click on your car for sale on AutoTrader, a flash ad will pop-up over the vehicle, forcing you to watch a 20 second ad for Progressive Insurance showing you how much this car will cost you to insure... then it will auto-minimize and you get to look at the vehicle...

Without the dealers... there would be no AutoTrader. Without AutoTrader, there will something else.
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    Lightnup
  • November 2, 2007
Sure is a lot of self-righteouness about reasonable pricing coming from folks in an industry known for $1,295 "Environmental Protection" packages ($10 worth of undercoating plus a quickie wax job) and $799 "Dealer Fees."

Like you wouldn't dance through your showroom after putting a car over the curb at M.S.R.P. plus fees plus a big back end? Home run, baby, high-fives all around! It's what car salespeople and sales managers dream of. Or the ever-popular "over-sticker" price of a hard-to-get hot new model. So don't begrudge a company for recognizing that they are entitled to maximize their pricing in the marketplace as long as they are providing value that customers are obviously willing to pay more for.

Does it make everybody happy? No. But then neither does hearing, "Oh, you must pay our dealer fee, it's printed right there on the buyers order."
A
Lightnup,

A few of us are commenting with our real names, links to where we work....we're completely transparent. How do you explain yourself? Why are you hiding?

To respond to your last comment, I'll admit my first thought was: is that the best he's got? You're right though. As an industry we are all about profit. We are the industry who is more exposed for this than any other. Yes, I have to respect AutoTrader for maximizing their profit on lip service. I don't respect your argument though. I think it is weak - you're stereotyping all dealers together in one bunch while this entire thread has been about one single company. You're trying to shift the argument.

Since it may be escaping you, here's the point of this thread: the Internet has created individual power. It gave everyone a voice. It is turning traditional media on its nose, and the media companies can't figure out how to make sustainable profit on it. Distribution isn't as much of a factor anymore, so the costs of doing business are less and competition is coming from every corner. But, there is a standard of living people are used to. I believe AutoTrader is battling with this right now. They're raising prices to see if they can sell their Internet package on the same level as their publication package. Nobody has figured this whole Internet thing out yet, but one thing we have from it is a voice. A few of us are using Dealer Refresh to be a voice for dealers. For better or worse, it is something we've never had before.
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    Bob L
  • November 2, 2007
So I guess I should sell vehicles with one year leases and renegotiate the deals with payment increases of anywhere from 30% to 80% for my customers every year on the same vehicle? Great analogy, totally apples & oranges. You get what you pay for simple as that, many aren't getting what they pay for from Autotrader.com anymore. Anyone seen my Rep? Haven't seen one in the dealership in about 8 mos? Would be out third Rep in under two years.
J
If I were Cox, this is EXACTLY why I'd get AT ready for sale.

AT has reached it's zenith.
-"1st to market" leverage...GONE.
-Competition growing exponentially.
-AT Brand loyalty stressed
-Sales methods, programs and support causing high turnover.

It'll need a fresh new vision and a total overhaul to remain "relevant".

"It's Elementary, my dear, Watson..."
<b>Fatten the calf just before you take it to market. </b>

Gotta love DR!
Joe
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    Barney
  • November 2, 2007
If Cox hadn't privatized all divisions I'd think you were on target w/the sale of Autotrader proposition. Too much revenue for them to give up on so easily esp w/out the investment banking speculation driving stock pricing up or down on them since they're private. Most everyone I've known who's been with the company since the early days is long gone, must've got options & rolled elsewhere.
T
What everybody in this thread seems to be missing is this: AutoTrader is comfortable raising their prices because they are confident (and correct) that the majority of their users will simply post a negative reaction on DealerRefresh.com but continue to pay their increases rather than drop the service.

AT has stakeholders to worry about, same as any for-profit company. When they raise rates, I am sure they don't do it arbitrarily...they conduct market studies to gauge what the net effect of a rate raise will equal. If they determine that they will lose an insignificant portion of their customer base by raising rates, and that the additional revenue will exceed any losses, then it's a good idea to raise them!

Long story short: AutoTrader knows that the worst thing to happen to them from their rate hikes is that a bunch of dealers show up on DealerRefresh to complain about them. Big deal.

By the way, I am on the side of the affected dealers in the room...I have seen the rates increase each year, and I think it is highway robbery in most cases. The way to change it, though, is to drop AT before the others have a way to justify their own rate hikes across the board.
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    Bruce
  • November 2, 2007
We plan on cancelling autotrader.com in mid November and will not entertain getting back on until they begin their national advertising campaign again next Spring. They've brought little or nothing to the table for us in the Winter months, just based on past performance. Do we pay more every year? you bet, but it washed out when we don't pay them for a 4 or 5 month period when they don't do alot for us. Just our experience. Do they get us back? Yes, but on our terms not theirs. Also, hold out for price, I drag them until the last week of the month and have gotten where I needed to be with them, timing is what it's all about. If more dealers did this they would feel the pressure eventually, it would bury them for the fourth and critical quarter. Hold out on price they will cave eventually.
T
  • T
  • November 2, 2007
RE: Long story short: AutoTrader knows that the worst thing to happen to them from their rate hikes is that a bunch of dealers show up on DealerRefresh to complain about them. Big deal.

If we get the word out to as many contacts in the industry about dealerrefresh.com as we can it will become a big deal.

I have spread the word as much as I can. I think Jeff has created one of the best forums in the industry for ISMs, GMS, GSMs, and anyone working in the industry to express their thoughts, opinions, offer advice, and share industry information for all of us to be successful in any aspect of the auto industry business.
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    Ted Greene
  • November 2, 2007
I agree and have also made other dealerships we have relationships with aware of this thread. Alot of dealers I've spoken with in the past year or so all mention the absurd percentage of price increase from this company, be the dealer a wholesaler we deal with that has a small retail lot to the enormous multi franchise dealerships we trade with, everyone mentions the enormous price percentage increases and the lack or little service they ever receive from them. If we saw 50 to 80% increases in ROI we wouldn't mind paying for it but this is hardly the case. If I was a gambling man I'd also be willing to venture they're going to be put up for sale soon because based on what I've seen & read on here it certainly seems they maybe heading that way.
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    EK
  • November 2, 2007
If you think AT has more of an audience that Google does, you are sorely mistaken. I work for a dealership website company and I can tell you jumping on googlebase first was one of the best decisions we ever made. Guess how much we charge for googlebase? That's right, absolutely nothing.

To stay in the game these days, you have to move away from 3rd party lead providers and start getting your website with easy to find inventory placed well on search results. If a customer sees your name in the pay per click area and on the organic results, you are almost assured to get a click at the least.

The price of doing this compared to paying AT or any other lead provider a ridiculous sum of money plus the cost of the lead is a no brainer.
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    Frank S
  • November 2, 2007
As I mentioned earlier, imagine if Google improved the Base site features, pushed it out of Beta phase and actually decided to market & sell the sites features for half of what autotrader.com's rates are, it could crush them. Some autotrader execs have got to be reading this and wondering why there are these concerns regarding their price structures. It's because were tired of paying inflated rates for an audience size that really hasn't grown in pace w/the rate increases nor have the features paid off in delivering more eyeballs to our vehicles hence haven't done a hell of alot with ROI for us. We are basically salivating for the better mousetrap at half the rate, build it and we will come!
J
  • J
  • November 2, 2007
Along the same lines as TJ "Long story short: AutoTrader knows that the worst thing to happen to them from their rate hikes is that a bunch of dealers show up on DealerRefresh to complain about them. Big deal":

The insane rate increases year after year work for Autotrader because the increased revenue from dealers who stick it out will always outweigh the loss of revenue from cancelled dealers. After the dust settles, some of the cancelled dealers inevitably go back and voila: Autotrader is even further ahead in recurring revenue than before.

Case in point: I worked at TraderOnline (owned by Trader Publishing) when BoatTraderOnline.com literally doubled their rates across the board. Even dealers who signed up a week prior got a letter in the mail saying they had to pay twice as much as what they signed up for last week. The thinking was the same: the site does generate enough business to justify the costs, and although some dealers cancel because they're ticked off, the number of dealers who stick with it outweighs the cancellations and there is still a net gain for Trader.

The difference between Autotrader and BoatTrader though is that at the time BTOL doubled their rates they did not have any competition. Autotrader DOES have competition now, and from the dealers I've been examining lately the other classified sites are producing a better ROI for half the cost.
E
Phew....what a post and comments! I just spent a good 45 minutes scrolling through and reading everything! (Just don't tell my boss!) As I peruse through point and counterpoint (most of it being point, point, point) - I can't help but see the tiny tip of the iceberg poking out from the ocean of discontent. The question remains - will the iceberg surface or just sink due to fear.

Tim Morris hit the nail on the head - sure, ATC will read through this (as I know many of their head people already have) and be annoyed that some of their clients are complaining and then they'll look at each other and say what should we do? They will check their recent cancellations that are minimal in number and say - "Let's go get a drink! Woohoo!" Most all of those who complained suggested a solution - "cancel." Yet, I wonder, after your complaining - will you? Will you take your own advice or just hope the others posting will do it to help you out, so you don't have to worry about losing a few sales each month. Or waiting for Google Base to come along and squash the competition like a little bug and then they will run for President and then World Ruler for All-Time. (Google is evil - I am sure of it, but I can't wait for their phone) It's a bit like volunteering or donating - many of us assume the "nicer" people out there will do it, relieving us of the time commitment or dollar drain.

Perhaps this blog will do something more than just cause me to procrastinate doing work - perhaps it will cause a movement and cause dealers to take action instead of just feeling better by venting. It could be planned like the immigrant "work strike" where everyone cancels on the same day - that would really send a message. (Hopefully better than the poor immigrant work strike - that was a complete bust! They're still getting carted back to Mexico by the truckload) Just think of the article Cliff will write in Ward's "Hundreds of dealers cancel Autotrader.com- prices slashed"

I can't wait to see who really goes through with it and who slinks off the comment thread knowing they will not...tick tock
A
Erica,

I'm ready to take your challenge. We just had a meeting about how our past and present ROI with AutoTrader stacked up, based on our numbers - not theirs, and the "proof is in the pudding". They've priced themselves out of our threshold.

I guess I can add to the "tick tock..."
T
  • T
  • November 2, 2007
I have google alerts set up for many things I want to keep track of.

Here is one that just hit.

Link:
http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2007/11/05/newscolumn6.html

Friday, November 2, 2007
AutoTrader.com revs up its expansion plans
Atlanta Business Chronicle - by Justin Rubner Staff Writer

Atlanta-based AutoTrader.com Inc. is undergoing a major expansion.

The company, an online automobile marketplace owned by Cox Enterprises Inc., plans to hire 800 workers next year, 400 in Atlanta. Positions sought run the gamut from customer service and marketing to sales and tech-related positions.

AutoTrader CEO Chip Perry says AutoTrader has been expanding organically since being founded in 1997. But increased demand for Internet advertising -- especially from car dealers -- is leading to rocket growth, he says.

"There's an explosion of interest in online shopping," Perry said. "We're fortunate to be working in a category that's exponentially growing."

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    Blanchard
  • November 2, 2007
They'll need to hire at least 1000 because 200 of the folks already there will be out the revolving door by then. They have turnover like no other company you've ever seen before, it's like a disease that nobody in the company ever speaks of.
T
T.J.: By making the comment "Big Deal," I was not at all insinuating that the DealerRefresh resource is a waste of time. Far from it actually, I think it is great that people from all over the industry now have a forum, thanks to Jeff.

When I say "Big Deal" I mean that is how I suspect the folks at ATC look at it. They know that the worst possible reaction by the majority of their dealers is a gripe on this thread. Dealers need to make the decision that AutoTrader is either worth the asking price or is not. And then stick to their guns in order to affect any chance for a policy change.
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    Kenn Barr
  • November 5, 2007
Tim you're right they do read threads like this but will they realistically listen to their dealers this time around? I don't believe they will, but they should. I'm sure we've all spoken of Autotrader's rate increase percentages with our peers & w/our Reps but this time I've heard literally everyone that has an account with them bring it up in casual conversation about Autotrader.com at just about every opportunity they could when discussing internet advertising this past year or so. I'm also hearing the same sentiments expressed on here that I've heard in conversation with my peers about in the past year also and that's the declining ROI, most importantly I'd say the phone call numbers are way off compared to years past. They've got a tough climb ahead of them to justify the path they've chosen. Our dealership is considering what to do with our account right now and it doesn't bode well for them in having us swallowing the price increase they want this time around. Since they've lost Yahoo as an advertising partner how is this possibly going to improve the situation going into the new year? Any guesses as to that one?
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    Mike D.
  • November 5, 2007
"There's an explosion of interest in online shopping," Perry said.
The only thing I've seen "exploding" from autotrader is the monthly rates. We're down 30% this year vs last year on calls alone. Who out there is really content with what they are receiving in relation to what they're paying these folks anymore? Anyone??????
J
800 new staff?

hmm....400 in Atlanta (support, admin, techs, execs)
hmm.... 400 in rest of usa has to be outside sales force.
That's $24-30mill in payroll alone. >$2 mill a month.
Damn, that's a huge burn rate.

Ok, I hereby withdraw my guess that they're a seller ;-)
I now say they're rolling out a totally new platform to sell to already p*ssed off AT advertisers.

Dear Chip Perry,
I hope it's not another MyRide.com!

Joe

E
Simple solution-don't pay the increase.

My Autotrader rep socked me with an annual renewal for $450 more per month than the previous year. After looking closely at my contract, I discovered that our contract is open-ended, with no scheduled increases in rate. I said I was happy with my current contact and not to change a thing. After a few threats of "we can't offer you 2008 product at 2007 rates", they renewed my contract-at my original rate.

Good luck.
A
That's interesting Eric. I have a meeting with my AutoTrader.com rep in about 10 minutes. BRB.
C
I will weigh in on this as well. As the decision maker for which third party companies we use and ultimately the person who is accountable for what we pay for these companies; I say it is about time for a change.

I have had a great relationship with ATC for years. I have always signed on whatever dealergroup I am working for or consulting with based on their market. But this latest price hike makes no sense and ultimately will result in the demise of many good ATC sales reps who recently underwent a pay plan change. Needless to say, the feedback hasn't be good and cancellations are way up.

Do you realize that their new pay plan is based on procuring new business almost exclusively? They get nothing for RETAINING that business, but yet get penalized heavily if we cancel. On top of that, they are now told to spew that ATC is a "advertising medium" instead of a Internet lead provider and should be gauged against newspaper and radio.

C'mon ATC, you are sending your reps, Sales Managers and Regional Sales Managers (yes, I have had all three in my office) to war with no bullets. Saying, "wave your guns, I am sure they will fear your power and flee"!

While I am at it, these companies need to quit thumping their chests and figure out more VIABLE and UNIQUE products to offer. By signing everyone up on ATC or Cars.com, it dilutes the chances of even getting seen, let alone contacted.

Videos are nice...mmm k.
Price drop is icon is ...o.k.
Banner ads that are shared with 18 bazillion others is ...so so
Credit apps that can't go into your CRM are a pain
Partnership packages aren't producing negligable results.

We need ways besides the typical, custom comments, pricing and photos to set ourselves apart. Give me that at a increased price and we will talk. Give me a watered down version of what I am already getting, for twice the cost and we are done talking.

I will probably have to cancel all stores over this.

Lastly, I ran a division off eBay for awhile that did Fleet remarketing. We were on top of the world. We could ask for all the money and get it. Companies would come to us. Just like when ATC used to say, it is your loss not being on our site, we did the same at eBay and it worked!

Now, eBay is realizing (maybe too late) that they can't continue to hike up fees and not keep increasing results and substantiate it by widgets. Now that we are all a little more educated and that there are more choices, there needs to be more value and ROI.

Come March 2008, I think Autotrader will re-think their scheme. Hopefully for them, it won't be too late.
A
AutoTrader.com is reading this thread on all levels. If you want to have a voice, post a comment.

I don't know what changes may or may not come out of this, but they're certainly aware of our grievances. From the proposal I just received, there is a major price difference from the one I heard before I started this thread. I'm still not happy, but at least they're moving now.

Since I now know, without a doubt, ATC is reading this thread I have to put in a good word for my rep. Despite all the hell I always put him through, he does a good job of standing his ground. Yes, he has been drinking the ATC Kool Aid, but he is much more professional than other ATC reps I've dealt with. I like my rep, but I'm still not a fan of the product....at their uncompetitive prices.

I'll never completely buy-in to a scheme that uses our name to promote itself while charging us a fee to do it (I call it parasitic marketing), but while this model exists I'm going to do everything in my power to keep pricing honest.
Y
The most unfortunate part of this lengthly thread is that a majority of dealerships don't understand what they are doing by participating in AutoTrader.com.

Without YOUR inventory, the 3rd party lead generating, portal business model doesn't work!! If every dealership shut off their inventory feeds to Autotrader.com tonight, where would Autotrader.com's website be tomorrow?

Here's an exercise...

1. Pick a vehicle from your website and copy it's VIN number

2. Paste the VIN number into Google, Yahoo!, or MSN

What do you see?????

Does the vehicle show online shoppers that the VIN number is parked at your dealership's URL (your virtual lot)? Or is your vehicle only visible on the 3rd party sites that you subscribe to?

Web Design 101 isn't being practiced by a majority of website providers in the Automotive Internet industry when it comes to your most valuable (and expensive) asset, your inventory.

Too many dealerships are 100% reliant on 3rd party lead providers because their inventory has been framed in using another 3rd party solution on their website due to their 'website' company not having an inventory module!! If your inventory is framed into a 'New Inventory' or 'Pre-Owned Inventory' section of your site, the ONLY chance an online consumer will find it is if they manage to stumble and fumble through your pieced together clunky website (very unlikely) or through an online automotive portal.

Here is Google's take on frames:

'Frames can cause problems for search engines because they don't correspond to the conceptual model of the web.'

Until customers in your market are able to discover YOUR inventory on YOUR website through the search engines, sit back and enjoy the price hikes from each of your 3rd Party Lead sources...or do something about it!!!

Make sure your dealership isn't cruising down the Information Superhighway in a 1972 Ford Pinto! The results are explosive. :-)
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  • R
    Realistic
  • November 8, 2007
"Do you realize that their new pay plan is based on procuring new business almost exclusively? They get nothing for RETAINING that business, but yet get penalized heavily if we cancel"

We have no idea what their business strategy is or will be going into next year. It's all or nothing anymore, could be alot of nothing if they aren't careful.
J
It is amazing how much is spent on AutoTrader. I used them in the used car business and it paid off in the long run. But that was 2 years ago. Now you are lucky to even make enough gross to foot the bill for Auto Trader. Many dealers don't realize that Auto Trader charges an extra $200-$300 if not more to have the inventory pushed to them, a few dealers may already pay to have it pushed through their resources they currently have in place. Seems like double dipping I see. They don't care, they want their $$.
As mentioned earlier in one of the comments investing in to your current site that is going to give you the ROI you deserve is the best thing to do. Investing in your SEO! 20% of the dealers now are starting to do that. Dealers get abused so much for trying to get that extra sale and not get nothing out of it from the big guys saying they have their magic wand!
I would not suggest AutoTrader, It really gets me to see so many ISM's and dealers out there that have a grudge on them. They made their own mark in the industry!
J
<i>"Do you realize that their new pay plan is based on procuring new business almost exclusively? They get nothing for RETAINING that business, but yet get penalized heavily if we cancel"</i>

<b>This is the EXACT pay plan used by Verizon Yellow pages</b> (I sold YP for 2 ugly years).

This pay plan is built for driving numbers into a spread sheet and transfering risk (loss) down to the rep. It is the reason why turnover at AT is so great.

I have lived this pay plan and I can speak with confidence as <b>There is no better way to destruct long term BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS with your clients than to implement this anxiety ridden plan.</b>

Lastly, if you're managing the Yellow Pages, you can get away with this pay plan, the YP market is so un-dynamic.

Joe

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  • M
    Mary
  • November 8, 2007
Tranferring risk to the Rep is the best way to put it. It appears they are in the midst of a hiring frenzy. The turnover after the holidays will be enormous. I've been with them three years and have had enough.
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  • S
    shopper
  • November 9, 2007
Yourprofessor, your post is spot on! Why do so many dealers' websites treat inventory like a red headed stepchild? Dealers need to look at inventory listings like shoppers. And...dealers need to know that shoppers are finding them via Google. "xxx dealer (location) online inventory" will get your customer to your site, but what happens when they get there?

If I went to a store and all the inventory was in boxes, labelled "sweater" or "shoes", with identical little pictures (Stock photos) on them, and to know what color the items were, or if they were made of wool or leather I had to talk to a salesperson, I'd be out of that store in a NY minute. Yet many, many dealer inventories are like that. "ONLINE INVENTORY!! Yes we have a 2008 xxx, contact us to find out what color it is, what trans its got, what options are on it, list price...." I'm an unhappy shopper at that point.

The reason people research on the internet is THAT THEY AREN'T READY TO TALK TO ANYONE YET--THEY ARE "JUST LOOKING", at least in the beginning.Why do dealers bother with online inventory if they won't provide depth of information?

Frankly, Auto Trader has the same problem--wildly inconsistent levels of info provided. Try searching them for something with manual trans, for example. Half the time you'll get listings where the dealer didn't bother to list anything except standard equipment on their vehicles.

Shopping behavior is not just hunting, it's gathering...INFORMATION
E
Can we please discuss how hilarious the graphic on this post is? Alex, where in the world did you find it - it is PERFECT! That might be the meanest thing said about ATC on the post! A picture is worth a thousand words! :)
A
Erica - you crack me up!
Y
It's a shame that far too many dealerships are more concerned with finding sales and service opportunities through 3rd party sources when they have a website that their customers can't find online. AND...when their customer's do find them online, they are forced to listen to cheesy jingles or Charlie and Chocolate Factory mini people talk about how great the dealership 'experience' is.

Goto Amazon.com, eBay.com, Google.com, BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, etc. and see what the biggest and brightest players online are doing. Try to emulate their Internet presences vs. trying to build a Walt Disney like experience on your website.

Here's a secret...consumers have better things to do than visit your website to listen your jingles and TV commercials!! They won't come back daily to 'check you out'. The WWW has far too many options for your dealership to become the online version of WallyWorld.

Step back for a moment and take your Internet advertising offline...

Do you spend a majority of your offline ad budget on off-site sales?

THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING WHEN YOUR BUDGET IS GOING TO 3RD PARTY PROVIDERS!!!

Invest in yourself before you spend your money elsewhere. If your virtual dealership isn't the best it can be, why would you concentrate ANY effort on online portals?
E
I love Walt Disney World and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Perhaps if I was a "Professor," I would have more refined tastes. However, our mini Charlie and the Chocolate Factory person (for future reference, they are called Oompa Loompas in the book) upped our lead and service conversion 3 times...go figure.
P
Mike Teavee was the kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that used the chocolate television room to shrink himself down to about 2 inches...perfect for a website!!

The poor Oompa Loompas had their work cut out for them when they had to stretch him back to regular size.

WHOA!! When did the AutoTrader.com post turn into a 'land of pure imagination'??

I stand corrected. If your lead and service conversion ratios have increased 300% because of your Oompa Loompa, maybe every website should all get a friendly little guy to play with!! :-)
E
Ahhh, I thought it was weird that you couldn't recall the name of oompa loompas. Ok, so Mike Teavee was a good reference...our Rovion Lady is very much like a Mike Teavee, minus the fact she is female and an adult. And it is not that anyone "plays" with her (that would be creepy and weird and I would not want to know about it), she tells them what to do. It is interesting - when you give people instructions, more often than not, they tend to follow them! Maybe not accurately, but they can get the basics!
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  • C
    CARS 3.0
  • November 9, 2007
Three things with Autotrader.com

1. They aren't thru raising your rates yet, wait a couple months, more to come!

2. Watch your billing carefully, they are infamous for really historic billing screw ups that can take months to rectify, credit promises not paid, proration discounts never applied, etc.

3. Wait until 4 days left in the month to sign a deal then hold out and keep holding until they concede.

D
Post an Autotrader blog entry on DealerRefresh= 3 psychotic calls from my AT rep

Alex Snyder raising the bar with his additions= 4 more calls and emails from AT higher-ups

look on Chip Perry's face when he was asked about the blog....priceless!!!


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  • I
    Internet Jeff
  • November 10, 2007
Dear Cars 3.0 employee,

Let Autotrader.com raise the rates. The last time I attended a professional baseball, football or basketball game I didn't see any Cars.com advertising. We pay for what we get back. Hmmnn...

How many internet marketing resources does Cars.com pay for to be easily found by the consumer searching for their next vehicle? KBB (lol!!), NADA, AOL, Edmunds?

In a non-newspaper affiliated/Cars.com market, when have I have seen a Cars.com rep come into the dealership and help educate management on the benefits of their advertising service and show their results, or assist a fledgling internet manager produce more results from their advertising?

Or upon contract signing, send an associate to the dealership's lot to do an intitial photo upload free of charge?

ATC is infamous for billing screw ups? Is this based on experienced or just heresay?

Wait until the last days of the month for the best deal? Lol... Proof is in the pudding. Contact me through Mr. Kershner and show me the difference of an initial contract proposal and a signed contract for monthly service for the same account.

Beyond all the ATC 'bashing' on this post, I have proven results from ATC that as of Nov 9, 2007; 4 of my 8 vehicle sales for the month came from Autotrader.com consumers so far.

Cherry on top... I don't pay for the advertising out of my pocket. All I know is how many customers it drives to me every month. My cost per vehicle sold via online advertising is exceedingly less than traditional dealership advertising costs of newspaper, tv or radio. Oh, but wait... how do you track those sources?

If they don't find your vehicle online, they will find your competitors. Autotrader.com is the #1 resource consumers use first to find and/or research their next vehicle.
A
David - that's too funny. I'll be in Baltimore November 18-20th - maybe we should all catch up Monday or Tuesday?

Jeff - Are you getting ready to go work for Autotrader.com?
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  • B
    Burt
  • November 10, 2007
I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the corp offices of ATC after reading this thread!
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    C.H.
  • November 12, 2007
Funny, I see Cars.com on the TV all the time AND the local paper has Cars.com ads everyday. Soon cars.com will have Yahoo! auto channel which, unlike MSN, has had large increases in traffic. People go to MSN for two things, search/homepage and Hotmail. AT is falling behind with out dated partnerships that have a name (maybe for car buyers or maybe just a name) but, do not drive traffic of car shoppers. I'd rather have a 3rd party that changes with the industry and is effective. Not to sound like a cars.com ad, but they buy key words on all engines and have bigger budgets to do so than I. All the dealers on a 3rd party gives strength in numbers and I like that strength.
All of this isn't bashing, it is just that dealers are realizing what is going on and through communication, can all share what they know.... and that is AT is becoming a dying entity and this price hike is to get what they can, while they can.
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  • N
    njdevils
  • November 12, 2007
I worked there for almost 4 years.... I can tell you that priority #1 for ATC is 5x.. they want to be a 500 million dollar co. by any means necessary (they might be already or pretty close). During my time there I saw 4 rate increases. Thye have no plans to stop increasing rates.
A
When I was in first grade I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the first time and after seeing the Oompa Loompas, I was instantly in love.

I asked my mom what kind of people the Oompa Loompas were, because I just had to have one. She looked at the television and said "I don't know. Must be some sort of pygmie or something."

Sounded good to me.

A few months later my first grade teacher asked our class to write our Christmas lists to Santa. Of course the #1 thing I wanted was a pygmie. Well I never got my pygmie. All I got was a meeting with my parents and the teacher. At the time I still believed in Santa and thought he was a big fat RAT!!!!!

As far as ATC-no comment-lol
C
Internet Jeff: 1)you sound like you're a green pea 2) you must have a cute AT rep because you are blind to what is happening around you.
The Titanic (a.k.a. AT) is seeing the fallout begin. Not only did dealers see a rate increase recently, you're about to see another one and you won't even know it. New contracts allow AT to raise your rate without you even knowing it...in some cases 60%. Cars.com is closing the gap. AT keeps touting the JD Powers survey: their score was 682 (out of 1,000) and Cars.com's score was 678: 4 points difference. Considering the fact that Cars.com costs less and yields the same results, where is the REAL dealer satisfaction in comparing the two? And...go to JD Powers and see who powers their online classifieds. It's not AT. As a former Internet mgr, wholesaler, and now Cars.com rep, I have seen the growth, I have seen the AT greed. Can't wait to see them price themselves right out of the market and on to the street. They have and are losing their best reps that have been there from the beginning due to changes in pay structure. What they do is outline a new pay plan, tell you to sell it, then change the pay plan to benefit themselves. Now, not only are they taking dealer profit, but employee profit. Chip Perry: how do you sleep at night? Your pigs are getting fat, but you're about to get slaughtered.
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  • C
    Cyanide Evergreen Contract
  • November 13, 2007
ATC management like lemmings are walking straight into the flames of collapse, you can smell the fear of the unknown anymore. They've asked too much and delivered too little. I predict they will shed reps enormously after Jan 1st. Dealers have had their fill of the double speak, even their own sales reps don't believe it!
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    JPR
  • November 13, 2007
AT used to be completely free in 1998. I was one of the first Non-Franchised dealers on AT in Ohio. AT WAS the best thing since sliced bread. That was nearly 10 years ago. Every single solitary year our rates go up. It was free in 1998. The rates were $250 in 1999. Then $400. Then $700. Then $800. Then $900. Then $1000. Then $1200. Then $1400. We are now paying AT $1650 per month for our package. For $1650 per month, we can have an unlimited amount of inventory listed, we get a thumbnail picture on the main search page, a useless credit application link (only bustout's apply for a loan without seeing a car), a bold logo which doesn't stand out, a few spotlight ad's which generate ZERO leads, and 9 pictures of our vehicles to be hosted on the AT site.

We track every single phone call and UP on the lot. We find out if they were stopping in because of an internet site or whether they were drive by traffic.

When I first started on AT, sales were slow...maybe 3-5 cars per month from AT. I experienced roughly 10-12 sales per month from AT around 2001-2002. In 2003, when I feel AT maximized their ROI, I was selling nearly 20-22 cars every single month from AT alone for only $700-$800 bucks. Fast foward 3 and a half short years and I am back to selling 5 cars per month through AT and spending $1650 to do so. Now in the relative sense of advertising, $300 per vehicle for advertising isn't a horrible number when you are grossing $2000... But it is nearly impossible to have that kind of gross when advertising on AT.

Do a search on AT for a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee within 50 miles of your dealership. I just ran that search and there are TWO HUNDRED AND THREE 2004 Grand Cherokee's that come up. How in the world is an internet shopper going to land on my vehicle. To try to combat this problem, we've priced our vehicles so low online to get the customers in our door. Now we've eliminated our gross, but in many cases, we DO get customers in the door. Now the problem is the customers want to negotiate. It's a big problem since I am averaging $1000 gross per vehicle advertised online. So then we lose the sale because the customer wants to haggle, and we have no room left...

AT was great when there was little or no competition from other local dealers. Eventually, all of the dealers figured out AT was the biggest and best site to list their inventories on. It was the biggest bang for the buck. In 2003, they were on top of the world. But as nearly every thread on this site has pointed out, those times have come and gone and all that's left are extremely high monthly fees and very few sales.

Internet Jeff: You said 4 of your 8 sales this month are from AutoTrader.com...I think that you are in the minority and are extremely lucky.

We take 9 excellent pictures and we write excellent ads for each and every vehicle we list...but AT just isn't giving us back the ROI we became used to and now expect. The real question is what do we do now?

We were on Cars.com from 2004-2005 for 18 months. We were paying Cars.com $1100 per month and experiencing less than 2 sales per month from their site. I am not sure why it took us 18 months and $20K to cancel our contract. Cars.com rolled out some newer more attractive products and as our sales flatlined in early 2007, we decided to give them another shot. At $750 per month, it seemed like the 2 sales a month would be worth it...and of course we were hoping for more. We are still only averaging 2 sales per month over the last 4-5 months from Cars.com....

Going back to the original question: What do you think of AutoTrader.com's price hikes?

I am extremely unhappy about it...but I have come to expect it every year. Who wants to pay more and more each year for less and less?? As long as we the dealers pay their rates, AT is going to continue raising them....and can you blame them? It's just like the oil companies that are gouging us for gasoline...we aren't happy to pay $3 bucks per gallon...but what other choice is there???
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    Car Guy JC
  • November 14, 2007
Sounds like Autotrader is a bad name like Microsoft is? or Chevron? or AT&T? or GM or Ford...
Who doesn't want to pay higher rates. No One...
Who else do we gripe about... Cable company, gas companies, mortgage rates, car companies..
What does everyone think will happen when the next newest technology launches.. ie: Google... Prices will go up, traffic will go up, rates go up, traffic goes up, rates go up, etc..
I worked in newspapers back in the day and I heard dealers complain about rates ALL the time. Things are not different. Same argument, different company. Base your advertising buying decisions on who can perform, who can reach car buyers the most cost efficiently. Prices will go up... if they go down that is the time to worry about something bad going on.
BTW, KBB.com and Autotrader.com just announced a partnership... stay tuned...
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    Bill Slack
  • November 14, 2007
Well Autotrader really stuck it to me. in May they called and said the prices were going to go up.They told me I could buy up to 45 select ads which i did. They also said I could have the ads until needed and the 60 day time was not a issue. Well after the 60 days were up I had 30 some ads to use. After alot of talk with autotrader they finally gave them back. Well guess what! after that 60 days I had 10 ads left and the deal we had they said is no longer a deal THEY RIPPED ME OFF. sTILL 10 ADS LEFT!!! i GOT SCREWED BIG TIME. Hey a deal is a deal what are they thinking?
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  • S
    Stephanie B
  • November 14, 2007
They are thieves but hey Kelly Blue Book listings will fix this in a jiffy right????? Spin, Spin, Spin, keep sellin' the Spin!!!!
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  • J
    jp
  • November 14, 2007
You guys have way too much time on your hands! I am glad none of you work for me. I can see why you are not selling cars because you take way too much of your time to sit and write these blogs.
A
Thank you for comment jp - sounds like you have too much time on your hands if you're taking the time to sit and read all these blogs. Some of us use two hands to type, read faster than the average person, and can think quick on our feet, so taking 2-5 minutes to post a comment probably isn't hurting business. On top of that, most of the dealers posting here are market leaders for their region. We're not complaining about business being down - we're talking about AutoTrader.com raising rates without adding any extra substance....did you actually read this thread?

I'm going to jump out on a limb and make an assumption with this next remark: I'm glad I don't work for AutoTrader either!




<i>...posted from my house at 4:09 AM EST just before heading to the airport to catch a plane for....you'd never believe it....business.</i>
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  • I
    Internet Jeff
  • November 16, 2007
Alex- Thanks for a great article for all of us to view our opinions from our experiences on this side of the biz. I think we all have learned much from this post and I based my opinions from results, not personal interests in gaining employment. Grass isn't always greener on the other side!

Caradgirl- Not only do I have a cute and classy AT consultant, but she also suggests dealerships to be on Autotrader.com and Cars.com to capture both types of internet car shoppers. It just happens that the majority of my current page views, emails, calls and sales come from Autotrader shoppers.

Question of post- Is AutoTrader.com worth the price hike? Yes! Im not excited about going to the owner in 3 months with a bigger invoice, yet I have the ROI to show its worth. And, it still blows traditional advertising costs out of the water with trackable 24/7 Internet Department results and that's excluding the non-sourced sales from the showroom.

Where do most shop for variety and best price on high ticket items; houses, computers, flat screens? The internet. Who is the number one online resource for automobile advertising?

That's where my money would be spent first, after a quality dealership website, then to additional online advertising sources.

Update!! (Now at 11 sales for month, 7 from AutoTrader)
J
Internet Jeff,
Your AT performance stats are very different than my *market experiences.

My AT shoppers are very stealth and could only be found in post sale surveys. See 6 months of 2007 Call Count Records, AT is buried in the pack:

http://dealerclearanceservices.com/130d9b30.gif

I would like to study your marketplace. Which dealership do you represent?

Joe
p.s. Marketplaces are fluid, dynamic beasts. We all share space on AT with our competitiors, so, SIZE MATTERS.

* MY MARKET.
- Smallish market in UpState NY (300k).
- I'd define my market demographics as anything but upscale... Lunch Pail is more like it ;-)
- Small mass media budget (TV-Radio).
- It's a single point Chevrolet store w/100 used.
- 2 power players near by with over 2,000 used units within 10 miles.

This store is the classic old school family franchise operation where the property had been paid for generations ago and the last faciltites upgrade was when Nixon was Pres! hahaha...


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    Ian Statler
  • November 16, 2007
Autotrader is sticking it to everyone! Including us employees. YES the prices WILL hike up again for 2008 and if you think your Spotlight ads are giving you an advantage, wait until they ad the new showcase ads!!

http://tinyurl.com/2azvfd

Follow the link and you will see what I mean. I could only find these ads when I did a Saturn search in the Maryland area. I'm sure this is another a-la cart to sell the dealers or they will somehow wrap this into another package and want the reps to sell for another fee. They'll throw some bonus at us for selling these new showcase ads. Enjoy!!
A
Ian,

I can't see what you're talking about in the link, but I heard about the new ad unit I think you're bringing up. It is going to allow one dealer to dominate a particular make with a big flash ad above the standards, the partners, the spotlights....everything. I can only imagine how expensive this thing is going to be!

I wonder what will be next?

On a different note, I didn't want to get into actual dollar figures - I wanted to keep things somewhat civilized, but....I had a phone call from a single-point dealer on this thread and heard he is paying $7,700 a month to have a partner listing on ATC. Is anyone else paying that kind of money? If so, do you get an industrial sized jar of vaseline with that bill? Yeah, it might be cheaper than buying a print ad, but that is leaps and bounds beyond any other online spend I know of.
B
Alex,

We have been on board for a long while with ATC and have experimented with almost every type of Package you can imagine from owning the top 7 makes in the area and forking out.....Gasp.... over 10K a month! Paying all of the money to still hover around $250 a lead. Deliveries were up and ROI had a growth spurt but nothing to justify the outrageous prices we were handing over. As far as the $7700 dollar mention I know plenty of dealers spending over that amount and more. We have since discontinued our top 7 make placement and consolidated to 3 makes with some verticals. We are processing a cost analysis and I dont think we are going to be players at our current rate. Now one thing can be said for sure the new 08 prices are going to be ridiculous!!!! I have spoken with several independents that are shelling out the 10K a month and will continue to do so because that is one of the only ad sources they use.

The new program is called ALPHA and it operates like it sounds. I have no doubt they plan on pitting dealers against each other for some of these top positions. The larger franchised dealers are going to slug it out for these spots. AT will continue to nickel and dime the independents with a somewhat inflated representation of what they are really receiving. I have heard estimates from Industry leaders that ALPHA pkgs may start around double what Partner pkgs are retailing for. I know AT works for us. Could they work in the same capacity for less money? YES! I think its time we start holding their feet to the fire a little. When you see your rep next time tell em you want more, that you just dont think your getting your money's worth. My rep said "Look at all the Floor Traffic and Web traffic we produce" My question is this TRULY measurable? There are a few ways of doing it but this cant be AT's only response when you are presenting your product as best you can online.
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  • I
    Internet Jeff
  • November 16, 2007
Joe Pistell,

Would like to share my results of Autotrader.com with you and what works for me in my market. Im sure I could learn some things from you as well. Contact Mr. Kershner for my info.

My responsibilities include handling all of the incoming calls and emails from AT, dealer website and GM OneSource- setting the appts, taking the appts, closing, and finally the delivery.

Obviously I end up cherry picking, and the least time consuming/highest profit deals are the used car leads from AT. Could only imagine what the dealership could produce from all incoming leads if I had the time to work properly. It's a work in progress and big paradigm shift for the dealership.

Look forward to speaking with you Joe.
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  • I
    Ian Statler
  • November 17, 2007
Let me try this again. I took a screen shot of it this time.

http://tinyurl.com/343upo

Maybe these will be part of the "ALPHA" packages. ??
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  • A
    Al
  • November 17, 2007
When ever the "cost per closed deal" conversation is brought up with Autotrader, they get very quiet. As a customer of theirs for the past 5 or so years the phone call numbers are going down year upon year. We've maintained our top tiered listing position with them but with the rising rate increases it's costing us considerably per deal sourced from them. We track all walk ins and have incentivised our staff on providing us with accurate walk in traffic sourcing. We've informed them that in order for management to most effectively spend the ad dollar to gain the most customer traffic, we need to acurately know where our walk in/showroom traffic is coming from. They've been very cooperative in doing this as it only helps them in the long run also. I'm not so sure that the added features of the past year or so have managed to do anything significant in bringing more attention to our pre owned vehicles listed with them, anyone else experiencing this? Our Rep is a good guy and looks out for us w/tips etc. but it seems even his head is spinning as to how to sell the product w/a straight face to us anymore. I'm not sure that the investement we've made w/them is paying off as it once was and I'm curious to see if we stepped down to a cheaper product w/them for 4 or 5 months we'd notice any real significant difference? other than possibly saving cost per closed sourced deals from them.
J
IMO: Reduce AutoTrader position spending.

Customers can see positioning structure. Customers are drilling down to year-make-model then sorting by price (wouldn't you?).

Create select Loss Leaders from your prime sellers list (highest volume sellers). Be sure to price yourself a few ticks below market. Add text to suggest large selection and special pricing.

Viola' Traffic again!
Joe
J
I like reading these posts to get the feed back from everyone that is having both good and bad opinions on auto trader. Like I said they work good only when you work them too. I hear from so many dealers spending thousands of dollars on ad's that don't work, 3rd party leads, just invest in a website that actually captures the customers then having to pay for them to come to your site! Getting a properly optimized site and getting to the top of the organic searches is the best way to go then to pay to be at the top. I am not trying to sell anything but from my past experience I would rather dump a buttload of cash on a site that actually pays you back in the ROI!

Working the comments really good for auto trader will give back what you put into it. Just an hour a day if not less making creative comments will capture your customers online.

Enjoy selling and good luck!
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  • D
    DS
  • November 20, 2007
I laugh out loud at all the self righteous dealer personnel that cry about AT making money. Guess what, if you could do something better you would have. Try branding you dealership on your budget...

HA, HA, HA

Ain't going to happen. Hire an employee to do SEM and SEO? Now your budget is already blown through the roof, with no more traffic than you get now.

Know why AT works? Its called Top Of Mind Awareness. When a customer is constantly being drilled to search for cars and find a car on AT.com they use the service. Then when they go to look for a car, they don't have to use a search engine because they already know about AT. Can't say that about the dealership's sites, especially as the internet core audience matures.

Can anyone on these posts tell me why you would spend literally tens of thousands of dollars per month on mass marketing (i.e. newspapers, tv, radio) that reach only 3-4% of the public that s actively shopping for a vehicle at any one time?

You give $100000 a year to a newpaper showing 10% of your inventory, that reaches 400000 people a day. At a 4% shopping rate for cars we are talking about 16000 POTENTIAL viewers of your liner ad. For a quarter of that price you can list ALL your inventory on AT, show specs, research vehicles, get financing quotes and even fill out applications before they come in.

Now I see why you want to get rid of it. Because you can justify your jobs. Some times in going into a dealer I think "you are too stupid to work/own this dealership". More times than not that is proven out.
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  • S
    Spencer
  • November 20, 2007
I think you've missed a big point discussed here and that is many dealerships not seeing positive enough ROI for the investment in Autotrader's Premium Listings. Lets talk price & effectiveness. Toyota dealership w/50 used units with Autotrader Premium listings @ $5600 a month rate. Same dealership at the middle tiered level of ad product from Autotrader @ $1800 a month. Cost per used unit listed w/Premium Listings @ $112. Cost per used unit listed w/middle tiered ads with Autotrader @ $36. Selling 5 units per month on average from the Premium Listing product costs @ $1,120 a copy, selling 5 used units w/middle tiered ad product costs @ $360 per copy. Listening to the same spiel on and on from Autotrader about how valuable the Premium Listing products really are, priceless!
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  • M
    Michael
  • November 21, 2007
I love the latest "DS" post must be someone that works at Autotrader. Sounds like he just got out of one of their training classes and all he/she compares Autotrader to is the traditional media vs. other internet resources dealers can use.. Cars.com,UsedCars.com, AutoUsa, Autobytel, Dealix, Google Base, SEM/SEO, tools to capture customer info on their website, hmmm? Apples to Oranges sounds like spin zone to me.

Love the arrogant attitude and devious laugh "ha ha ha" and then calling dealers, or ISMs stupid or justifying their jobs? That's a great approach - let's insult our customers.
J
I agree with you Michael! I talk to so many dealers everyday and going in to the approach of the confidence of dealers trying to gather ideas to sell more cars. They are not stupid, along with the ISM's. I had been an ISM for 4 years before jumping aboard with TK Carsites and having that comment from DS aka AT insulting dealers and ISM's shows he/she never worked on the floor. They must hate their job at AutoTrader! Maybe DS needs to justify their job!!
A
Congratulations Jennifer - you are the 100th poster in this thread!

Notice how many people have jumped in this thread to refute on behalf of AutoTrader, but will not leave their actual information? Wonder why? If these people feel as though they're adding something worthwhile to this thread, they should be open about who they are. Engage in the debate. Show us why we're wrong. Debate is a healthy thing, and we're missing it these days. Thank you "Internet Jeff" for being the exception - I may not agree with you on this one, but I respect you for working to make a debate.

When people hide behind the interwebz, and don't fight back when challenged, that person is a waste of time.

Dealer Refresh gives us all the opportunity to have a voice - vendors and dealers together. Let's debate - let's make ourselves better!
A
"Let me try this again. I took a screen shot of it this time.

http://tinyurl.com/343upo

Maybe these will be part of the "ALPHA" packages. ??"

.............................


Interesting Ian. So that will be above the spotlights? I heard about it somewhere else, and asked my rep - he said it will be for strategic marketing campaigns that run on a 10-15 day period. Looks expensive to me. I wonder if it is really a way to give big-budget dealers an advantage on smaller dealers again.....since ATC sold so many partner packages making their original "partner dealers" upset?

I could be totally wrong, but that was my initial thought.
J
  • J
    Jerry G.
  • November 21, 2007
Cool new feature. Will it justify it's costs in generating more customer call activity to support the ROI? I doubt it.
T
  • T
  • November 21, 2007
It's just another way to get "newspaper" money trump the Partner package I'm sure.

So if there is something above spotlights or your Partner package why have a partner program?

DS- states, if we could have thought of their brilliant idea then we would have?

Interesting challenge to all of us who are in the internet/automotive field. Wonder who will come up with the next category Killer to autotrader - enjoy it while it lasts now DS.

That is what is so great about our country. There is always someone out there developing a new idea to make something that exists even better... or filling a need that another company is missing out on as it is clearly stated in this post.

Who knows could be one of us...
J
Yes apparently I was the 100th post. I was not aware of that. It is funny they don't give their information and they have such hasty stuff to say to defend Auto Trader!

The reason I have jumped aboard with TK Carsites is I know they can give so much to the dealer, yes they are not cheap by they deliver results big time. Why should we dish out so much money to have a big wig sit in his chair and laugh at the dealers and think " wow you must be really stupid & you have no choice" Think again BIG WIG aka AUTO TRADER! All the dealers have a choice to jump up and say "What a minute, why should we pay the Cow when we can get the Milk ourselves!"

For the price jackings and poor customer service from Auto Trader they are a waste of wind in my world!
Sorry to be so harsh on this post, but thinking again I am not!

Thank you again Alex and the rest of who supports the idea of the crazy price jacking!
S
  • S
    Sam Snyder
  • November 21, 2007
...a big wig sit in his chair and laugh at the dealers and think " wow you must be really stupid & you have no choice" This mindset is where they are at. IMHO they are going to undergo some fundamental changes as far as corporate structure in the next six months or so. Will this benefit dealers currently paying their rates? Time will tell, but I highly doubt it. I find it hard to believe they maintain this sentiment when they experience field staff turnover like they do, crazy if you ask me.
R
I personally agree Autotrader.com is a bit too expensive, however over the last year since their price increase, I have seen quite a bit more leads being generated from their site and our closing percentage has climbed to 11.5%. Now I'm not sure if it's my process or are these little extra things they offer now such as multimedia and dealer specials contribute to the increase in our closing percentage. I use every available tool available to me from autotrader and update my specials and spotlight cars as soon as there is a change. I personally don't mind paying on an average $350 per car in advertising. I think any dealer would agree on this as long as the numbers are consistant. I'm placing this comment here not to defend or bash Autotrader.com, I just like to give them a little credit where it's worth. I would be willing to bet if a dealership that uses Autotrader.com stopped they would see a decline in both their internet and floor traffic.
J
  • J
    Jeff Larsen
  • November 26, 2007
Thank you to Alex and all of the contributers of this article. I have learned and appreciated everyones input.

Admitting I am an Autotrader.com fan because of the success personally experienced with them regardless of how they market or how much they charge. I also believe Cars.com and other methods of online advertising are essential for online success. It’s all about what works in that market for that dealership.

Based on my experience, once an Internet Department has learned how to utilize and maximize the main online advertising resources: Dealer Websites, Manufacturer leads, Autotrader.com and Cars.com, only then is time to broaden the horizon into other areas.

For clarification purposes, I would like to mention that the online name I previously used ‘Internet Jeff’, should not be confused with Jeff Kershner, and was actually thought of to separate the two Jeff’s.

Feel free to contact me to share ideas about this article or any other automotive internet thoughts. Generally, it is the most misunderstood and underappreciated department in a dealership… We need to stick together on this!

Thank you

Jeff Larsen
815-994-0012
J
Thank you Mr. Jeff larsen for the input! I was a bit confused, I was thinking that Jeff Kershner was trying to be an AKA..... Thanks to the both of you!

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  • L
    Lightnup
  • November 30, 2007
One of the reasons there are, and will always be, 3rd party vendors is that no matter how knowledgeable a dealership employee becomes about SEO/SEM, PPC, organic searches, do-it-all-yourself, etc., as soon as he/she gets new responsibilities within the company, leaves the company, becomes sick, gets injured or just loses focus, there is usually no one to step in with the same level of expertise and the project falls apart.

Have seen the same thing happen over and over with service customer and un-sold prospect follow-up programs. Dealer tries to do it in-house, Sally gets overloaded with other duties or takes some time off and pretty soon customer follow-up has fallen by the wayside.

Like state-of-the-art, customer-captivating SEO/SEM laden web sites, it CAN be done and it's not even rocket science but many (probably most) dealers lack the personnel with the passion and commitment to maintain consistency in the effort. And that's when the outside company becomes an alternative worth paying for, whether it's AT, Cars, AutoWhizBang or whatever.
T
  • T
  • December 3, 2007
Read this online today.. Last line shows you even very well branded Cars.com sites are using SEM to drive traffic to their site.

"The deal also adds cachet for Homescape, a leading and growing property listing site based in Chicago. Homescape is a division of Classified Ventures LLC — which is owned by media companies Gannett, Tribune, McClatchy, Belo and The Washington Post.

To date, it has 2.7 million property listings cast to a network of 125 online newspaper partners. Its intent is to grow www.Homescape.com into the same brand recognition as its other businesses, www.Apartments.com and www.Cars.com. Some $5 million is expected to be put into Search Engine Marketing in 2008."
J
That is amazing thank your for the input T. J. It is good to get the facts.
T
  • T
  • December 3, 2007
No problem Jennifer.

Google Alerts is a great way to keep informed in the industry. You can create an email alert so anytime a certain "keyword" for example autotrader.com, cars.com ect. is mentioned the news item, blog is emailed to you.

Here is a link to set it up
http://www.google.com/alerts?hl=en

If you need help let me know.
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  • L
    Lao Shi
  • December 3, 2007
"Our new partnership with Kbb.com signifies our continued commitment to providing our advertising customers the best value and widest possible exposure. With more than 3 million new and used cars listed on our site and 13 million unique monthly visitors -- and with both numbers continuing to grow -- AutoTrader.com remains the best source for buyers to find that perfect car and for sellers to quickly find car buyers." -- Chip Perry, president, AutoTrader.com

"This alliance is a great opportunity for Kelley Blue Book to further expand its focus on providing value to the dealer's business, something we have been committed to for more than 80 years." -- Paul Johnson, president, Kelley Blue Book

This move still does not support the annual rate increases for the Autotrader solution they keep handing to the dealerships. kBB is a great company and has a great reputation however they have not been real successful in the transition to the technology solution. This is strange as they have the ingredients however the recipe has not clicked with the consumers.

At some point, and this point has been taken by many dealers around the country, most dealers will say no to the annual increases in their rates. There is not much Autotrader can do as their business model is based on the pyramid principal and when the pyramid begins to turn upside down then there is no longer financial base support.

There will be a solution developing from a company, developing a model offshore that will, if they are able to pull together the plan and financing, offer a more reasonable priced solution. Let us hope they are successful.

Google Base is another solution that is (Presently) very affordable and Craigs List which is very affordable. The consumers like these sites and trust them, every day more and more use the resource. You also have ebay local which at $900.00 plus is not inexpensive however it is clean and the consumers like them, and they are month to month. You try them, if it works you keep them if not you say goodby. The other nice thing about these three is they are International and this gives the sellers a much broader market.

K
Wow DS. You've got cajones. You actually work for AT.c, you feel that you can justify price gouging. There is a difference between making money and greed. Then, you add insult to injury by laughing at the folks on this forum( mostly dealers; your customers, your livlihood) and calling them stupid. Does DS stand for DipShit??
Furthermore: AT.c does NOT have the right to take money out of dealer pockets every 6 mos. On the horizon for 2008:
AT.c is selling against TV for the first time ever.
Increases are 8(Loyalty Rate)-25%(new business rate), NO grandfathered rates, will occur in March regardless of when you signed your last contract. There will be two rates: New Business rate and Loyalty Rate. Loyalty Rate eligibility, they will need to be on consecutively at least one year. ALL dealers will get the increase by 3/31/08.
So, you think it's bad now. Just wait. And DS, good luck with that. it will be awesome to see who is laughing when your commissions dwindle down to poverty level.
Be sure to check out the vignettes leading up to Cars.com's 2 commercial spots in SuperBowl: www.carsgameface.com. In addition, Cars.com will take over Yahoo Autos on Monday Dec 10. NEW and USED inventory will be posted. AT.c will take over kbb.com. Yahoo ranking on Alexa: 1. Kbb.com rankning on Alexa: 2,498.


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  • K
    Kidd
  • December 8, 2007
AutoTrader.com's attitude is that they don't care, if you pay the increrase percentage, fine, if not "...you'll be back eventually because you need us more than we need you right now" That casual attitude will cost them millions in lost revenue. Is their audience going to grow w/partnership from MSN & KBB enough to justify the increase in rates? I hardly think so. The new features do not drive traffic to vehicles, they are icing on a stale cake that I as a dealer am personally tired of being told to eat it because it "tastes great". I sympathize with my sales rep from autotrader because they are ok, the company is out of touch with reality in their rate structures in our market if you ask me, we've had enough.
D
So they raise your rate, but don't give you more?

Today at noon, we began a partnership which has value, substance, and clout. Click on www.yahoo.com. Click on Autos. And no longer will you see trader... but instead you see us. New and used...

www.autos.yahoo.com


Thanks! Best string yet on this site!

Dave Rudey
312-601-5614
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    bj
  • December 12, 2007
yes, on alexa, yahoo is #1... but that's not their car site... just fyi
it only shows yahoo when you put in autos.yahoo.com (sounds fishy)


just like ebay is realy high on alexa also, but not for ebay motors, it's for the people buying beanie babies, etc. (just another fyi)

T
  • T
  • December 13, 2007
Nothing Fishy about it. Autotrader swapped with Cars - Cars took the #1 visited site with yahoo, AutoTrader took #5 with MSN.

autos.yahoo.com is just the subdomain and direct link which was given I suppose to be helpful and show where the "powered by" is. autos.msn.com gets you to Autotraders partnership area of the MSN site.

saying people don't go to Ebay to buy or sell Cars like they do with everything else is like saying people that go to KBB only go to research used car values and not search the car - so does that mean Autotrader's partnership with them means nothing as well?

In the end again it comes down to price - get the same or more leads on cars.com but for 1/2 or 1/3 of the price then Autotrader in most cases especially when cars.com is attached to the paper (Classified Ventures) in that market - i.e. Phoenix, LA, Miami, ect..
J
  • J
    jason
  • December 15, 2007
1) we've had 4 reps in 12 months!

2) AT calls have dropped nearly 50% over the past year.

3) the only goods news i have regarding AT: customer surveys did show 50% of our AT deals never called or emailed us - they just showed up and went under the radar and were logged as 'drive-ups'. But then, this was true for EVERY internet medium - turned out 60% of our customers said the internet was what brought them in.

4) AT has the worse ROI for us when compared to other iternet initiatives, which are now soley AT, cars.com, craigslist, sem/seo for our own website.

5) new cars were dropped from premium plus to standard for us - yet we got just as many leads. makes me wonder if we should just become a standard advertiser with our used cars.

As soon as I can find somehwere else to invest the money, autotrader is gone. maybe ebay motors..
J
Jason and all.

Jason I am in your camp, we all know that customers like to shop incognito.

I am about to revamp our post sale survey to get better info. I like you you've found a way to uncover stealth shoppers.

If anyone has a survey that they lean on, Please post your survey queries here.

Thnx,
Joe
J
Got shot down pretty hard core there DS by Katherine! Thanks for the great info Kat!
It is pure greed when it comes down to it. They don't care about their dealer at all unfortunatly, just the $$ in their pocket!

Take a hike AT along with your hand bag DS!

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    Greg Taylor
  • December 17, 2007
There is a trick to using AutoTrader.com, should you choose to continue with AutoTrader.com considering the jacked up prices.

Sign up for low level pricing (Toyota puts out $1400 of the bill) then, if using Dealer Specialties or a varient... call them and upload you New Car inventory to AutoTrader.com.

You need real pics, not stock photos and try not to involve AutoTrader.com reps.

I sell about 10 - 12 NEW CARS in additional to pre-owned sales per month doing this and is saves me thousands because I am not signed up on the new car end of Autotrader. People looking for a used Camry sees my new one listed in at the discounted price.
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    Linda Abanto
  • December 18, 2007
Do you think Autotrader.com works for dealerships in Los Angeles?
I have been approached for employment with them, your blog has left me thinking about it.
However, I was previously working on advertising, and know that as compared to other Media, Internet's performance is getting better while the other media (specially newspaper and print) are cutting their rates. So I think their rate increase is in line with the changes on the market.
I also noticed tons of job postings nationwide for auto trader. They are either trying to be very aggresive or the turnover is high as some of you say.
I'll appreciate any feedback, thanks.
A
Linda - I can't say anything about working for AutoTrader.com because I've never worked for them. There is a lot of turnover in the automotive industry in general (I think I heard 60% in the first year is the national average), but is ATC a tech company (less turnover) or an automotive company? Some of the previous ATC employees can probably comment better to your questions.

I'm really responding to you because your question about LA got my wheels turning. My official response on LA is that I don't know - I've only visited. You did get me thinking about my own market though. Why would a dealer from Newport News (Richard Klepach a few comments before) come on here saying nice things about ATC aside from our rep asking him to? Why does AutoTrader.com not work for Checkered Flag after multiple tries over many years? Why does the magazine work for us, but not the site? Why do my more-immediate competitors feel the same way I do?

Is it because AutoTrader appeals to an audience that buys cars under a certain price point?

I'm going to come off a little snobby with this next remark, but I recently started seeing AutoMart everywhere (that's another story...a more positive one though!) - my local grocery store and even a few places I grab lunch. I never see an AutoTrader. I went to K-Mart the other day followed by a stop at a Food Lion (also another story) and I finally found a ton of AutoTraders. In my area it seems like the AutoTrader rag has been targeting a lower-economical segment. It then occurred to me most of our ATC calls, over the last 3 months, were about credit issues. Had magazine placement over the years driven a market segment to the website?

Most of the franchised dealers in my area cater to a new car customer. If AutoTrader has been painted as something for a used car customer (a customer independent dealers, here, cater to) naturally it isn't going to work for us. It explains why we get better results through Cars.com and probably will be receiving from AutoMart soon (another Cox Media company).

So Linda, maybe you should look at the LA market yourself. Where have the magazines been sold? Do you find them in places where a $20+ bottle of wine is as foreign as Japanese? If yes, do you want to work with independent dealers and fight with franchised dealers? If no, do you work with franchised dealers and fight with independents?

I have a crazy theory that print isn't fully dead. The effects of print are still being felt amongst the companies who are still in the printing business. If you're an automotive classified company, where have your people been sticking your rag all these years?
R
I just wanted to clarify that by no means did anyone from Autotrader ask or coach me into posting any good comments on here for them. Everything I said in the comments I posted earlier was from my own experience and thoughts of them. Just over the past six months my internet sales have skyrocketed. I credit all my available resources from vendors and reps., going back to the basics and good ole' training. I would be foolish to cancel my listings on autotrader.com...Merry Christmas everyone!
A
C'mon Nate - don't be so obvious.

Richard - please continue to participate on Dealer Refresh, and maybe one day we can catch up offline.
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    Bill
  • December 23, 2007
Our dealership has been advertising with autotrader.com since 2000. We had the same rep for about 2 years then we got another rep who just left the company this year in June. We had a very good relationship w/our last rep, he seemed to really care about our online marketing and provided us with consistant training on the back end tools, etc. We do "ok" with them on pre-owned sales and source about three or four units a month from them. The features they added this year have really not brought us any noticable difference in traffic on our pre owned inventory our new inventory gets minimal attention, we do well with calls from Cars.com on new vehicles. I see many have mentioned the price increases of late, how much are we really talking about here? Our rates went up about 25% in the Spring but some have mentioned they are planning on raising rates again in the first quarter of next year? is this the case? Our rep with them now is "ok" but knows little or nothing obout the car business and has that deer in the headlights gaze if you know what I mean. Where is autotrader.com going in the next coming year? I'd like to get more from them than we have been getting, it's been half decent but I'm looking for more bang for the buck if you will, it's been "flat" w/them for the past year or so. The ROI has been ok but I'm coming to realize if we're paying 50% more to advertise w/them in the past year and a half, why hasn't our amount of sourced deals grown w/this increase?
A
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    Adel
  • December 31, 2007
Facts:

Autotrader.com will raise all dealers with them less than a year by 30% by 3/31/08. Dealers on longer than a year with them should expect a "legacy" rate increase of 8% by 3/31/08 automatically.

Cars.com will also be bumping up rates on all dealers by aprox 20% also by 3/31/08.

We are entering a "recessive" economy.

Take it for what it's worth but it's unfortunately the truth.
S
  • S
    Scott James
  • January 18, 2008


I can't believe all the bellyaching BS from you folks. When Cable TV was in it's infancy, you could buy spots on CNN for a frickin Dollar. A Buck to maybe 5 bucks a spot. AND..you would get a 24 R.O.S. Remember??? You would get TONS of "Spots" for pennies on the dollar...of...get this...people staring at a screen. (But...you only got their attention for 30 seconds). Now the cost of a TV spot on CNN is over 100 to 200 times the price you paid even in some cases 10 years ago. Your Television Advertising: MAYBE your POSSIBLE...CUSTOMER...STARING AT A SCREEN...for 30 seconds maybe 10 feet away , IF you happen to catch them not taking a wizz and IF they are not fast-forwarding through hyped up BS "COME IN NOW FOR THE BEST DEAL OF THE CENTURY...$4000 FOR YOUR TRADE SALE!...blah blah blah flavor of the month...it worked in this market over in Nebraska and they sold 100 units ...puke.) VS. PEOPLE STARING AT A SCREEN (18-34 year old males in the market to BUY A FRICKIN CAR....For not 30 seconds...NOT 3 minutes...FOR ALMOST 30 MINUTES! Wait a minute...what is ADVERTISING? Is there at least SOME element of EXPOSURE? What are you nuts? What Radio Rep or TV Rep is giving you a report of ANY kind other than "Here's who we THINK( is not taking a wizz or Fast forwarding through your) MAYBE SAW FOR 30 SECONDS...Your lame azz ad. 30 Seconds. VS. 30 Minutes. 10 Feet away looking at a screen or 2 Feet looking at a screen. A bit distracted...waiting for the show to come back on...or completely engaged looking at your vehicle. Why did Google spend a Billion on You Tube?
TRY THIS "EXPERIMENT"..

Nix your T.V. Budget For a Year. Just your TV....and re-invest it all in ATC, CARS, 3rd parties...your own site, ebay, ALL OF IT. INVEST in a STRONG Internet Manager or Team that KNOWS THE CAR BUSINESS AND IS STRONG ON THE PHONES. Use EVERY tool that every Internet 3rd party provides and make your own site as strong as well with Key Words. But...don't sit there and complain about the ROI at this point in the GROWTH and SHIFT of dollars away from traditional media...it's happening anyway...get over it. Maybe ATC is just ahead of the curve in their rates...maybe their not. They are probably high...for now. I heard my rep say "Only 8% from now on". Fine. Whatever.

A
Scott,

Thank you for your comment. I don't think anyone on Dealer Refresh would ever dispute your point on investing more in eCommerce ventures. We're mostly eCommerce people here.

The spirit of this thread has nothing to do with whether Automotive eCommerce is accepted, it is quite the opposite: Automotive eCommerce has been accepted, but one of the players has gotten a little out of hand. We want our vendors to work with us, be our friends/our partners, but understand that when they get out of line we are going to use the Internet to open their eyes. Our customers taught this strategy to us, and now we're using it.
W
Alex,

We don't have to appease our vendors to get them to work with us - we pay them. That should be enough to start. Sure, if they do a good job, that could build a foundation for friendship, but not before they produce results. I've been chummy with vendors when they are producing. But when they stop, we don't hear from them again. No one calls me after they are let go. So much for being friends.

We shouldn't have to worry if our vendors will work with us or not. If they don't, they'll likely go out of business. If a vendor won't work with me now because I'm calling them out, that's weak.

But when a vendor does produce, we'll put them on our shoulders and carry them like they are champs. We've provide MANY referrals to the vendors who are 'productive' partners. There is a two-way street, but the vendors have give first.

I'm all for a big love fest, but there are some problems that need to be addressed. Conversion is dropping. Why have a I read from many here that say we're behind other industries? If we are, which I do believe we are, who's fault is that? Ours.

And if a vendor wants to get on here and complain about us complaining, at least stand up and identify yourself - provide a link.






T
great post Wayne, and I agree about the "identify" yourself it seems the anonymity of internet helps vendors do a hit and run - blast a comment but not share what company or market they represent.

I take comments from people like that with a grain of salt..it's funny how I find that there hasn't been a comment about ATC pricing being raised higher every year for two weeks and ATC just had annual meeting.. coincidence?

maybe Scott James just came out of the ATC vs. Traditional Media traingings as he was sharing his thoughts on TV ads- sell exposure not leads meetings -

I say ATC as great value in certain markets with certain brands in each market - bottomline is its all about ROI - Price only matters in the absence of value.
W
TJ,

"Price only matters in the absense of value"

That's right on. Where's the beef?

Why can't ATC also provide us with a click history of their leads so we know what they were looking at, how often, etc?

Its because they're not thinking about the problems hard enough, just pointing fingers and deflecting the argument back onto us.

It's easier to raise prices to satisfy their stakeholders then think outside the box.
T
  • T
  • January 18, 2008
wayne - agreed on all statements

sometimes companies choose to go the wrong way in my opinion
shareholders -employees - customers

sometimes they run a company like Southwest Airlines one of the most profitable airlines in history in its prime(haven't kept up on what they are doing now) and focus on the customers (external) first, then internal (employees) - and shareholder value comes all on its own with this focus or alignment
CUSTOMERS - employees - Shareholders

good blog about it here: but it looks like you already get this point -some companies lose sight.
http://blog.holtz.com/index.php/weblog/comments/screw_the_owners_customers_come_first/
A
"We don't have to appease our vendors to get them to work with us - we pay them. That should be enough to start."


I didn't want to be that obvious, maybe I should have said - Open other dealers' eyes.
R
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    Ruby
  • January 18, 2008
Wayne and T.J. you couldn't be more right when saying "Price only matters in the absense of value". I find that more Auto Trader customers are dropping them because they are always raising there price but not adding more value. They soley rely on there name Auto Trader, yes Auto Trader is very well know nation wide, but watch out because Cars.com is also known nation wide. If you do not know who/what Cars.com is you will. I PROMISE! We have increased our advertising/marketing budget to $200 MILLION for 2008. More exposure for Cars.com is more exposure for all of our dealer partners that are on with us. Yes that's right Dealer Partners, everyone is a partner with us. Dealers are not just customers and money to us, they are partners with Cars.com. We don't just call to collect payment or to make the sale. We are in constant contact with our dealers to make sure they are successful. We answer their questions and work out their issues right away. In addition to Auto Trader raising prices and not adding value, I have also heard many times that they only care about the sale. I have dealers that hardly ever see or hear from there Auto Trader rep.

Oh and if you haven't figured it out yeah, I am not ashamed of where I work. I am an ISM for Cars.com

Go Cars.com!!! Watch February 3rd to see us at the Super Bowl.


T
  • T
  • January 18, 2008
Ruby - thanks for sharing -I will definitely be watching as I'm sure it will be my NY GIANTS vs. the Pats :0) for a rematch thats needs to be made as we have some unfinished business as the wrong ELI gave up that game to them.
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    Ruby
  • January 18, 2008
Not a problem T.J. I am so excited about everything we are doing at Cars.com and want to make sure everyone knows it.

I wish your NY Giants luck.
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    Lightnup
  • January 20, 2008
Ruby dear,

The dealers in my area tell me they never hear from their (see the proper use of their and there) cars.com rep and quite a few have canceled cars.com because of that. So, just because the ATC rep in your area is not doing their job properly, don't generalize that they are all that way because it's not a fact, any more than all cars.com reps are "constantly" in touch with their dealers. It just isn't so.

I think it's great that you're enthusiastic about your company...you obviously have been sipping the cars.com kool-aid. But that doesn't mean you should exaggerate and tell untruths about your competitors just to make your company look better.

Is it true that cars.com is raising their rates 20% for all dealers by March 31st?

F
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    Frank S
  • January 20, 2008
I see my cars.com & autotrader.com reps every month. We have a good relationship. Over the past year our used car activity has gone down considerably from both venues. Our dealership does market new vehicles on both sites and we get very little attention on either. We have decided to cut back on both ATC & cars.com products this year and increase our ad spend with SEO & SEM and are considering adding online display advertising w/a local vendor. We have seen real growth in activity from SEO & SEM in conjunction with manuf new vehicle promotion in our market for the past 6 mos or so. The latter has been driving much more phone traffic, sourced deals than either of our third party classified sites products have been experiencing. Are others having the same results? Seeing my rep is great but having the products provide less results for an increase in costs is the issue. Third party classified sites are good, don't get me wrong, but I believe the "psychology" in the consumers mind in using these sites has changed dramatically over the past two year period as internet advertising is always a changing venue we are changing our ad spend to reflect where we have been seeing the lions share of growth in customer activity.
W
Frank S:

you said:
"I believe the "psychology" in the consumers mind in using these sites has changed dramatically over the past two year period as internet advertising is always a changing venue"

I think you are right, it has.

Our 3rd, 4th gen Internet car buyers have gained confidence here lately with all their iPodding, blogging, twittering, youtubbing, googling, ebaying, whatelse...myspacing, facebooking, texting, cellphone-camming, and second-lifing.

They weren't really doing all these things 6-7 years ago. They know the game better. They have been 'screwed' at least 10 times throughout their online history. Not just by us.

Do consumers really need the services of third-party (middlemen) anymore? They were surely needed in the past because there was a severe deficiency in dealer websites from '95 - '02. I'm just throwing it out there, I don't know right now. There is still a segment of the market to reach through it, but the watering hole seems to be getting smaller.

Now, our Internet customers have all sorts of confidence and are coming right at us to our dealer websites expecting some personalized services.

They still have a weakness though - they like to have a good time.




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    Clarion Hilton
  • January 27, 2008
Here is an interesting link that tells "the rest of the story" about the quality of a 3rd party site and cars.com in particular. Yahoo may have stepped in some doo doo here, but, at least they "made the sale" to cars.com:

http://suggestions.yahoo.com/detail/?prop=autos&fid=64798


A
Clarion Hotel - that is being discussed over here: http://www.dealerrefresh.com/my_weblog/2007/12/the-monday-refr.html
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  • N
    Nathan
  • January 28, 2008
Anytime you improve and change a product you are bound to have a few people that resist. Roughly 3-6 million car buyers are going to yahoo autos every month and only a handful of people have made remarks. If you look a bit deeper you will see remarks made prior to December 10th.

On February 1st you will see the new car search change!

Nathan
E
Wayne -

Add an analytics (ie: Google's is free, WebSideStory is paid) program to your website and you'll see all the stats on your AutoTrader traffic. (Incoming links, time spent, bounce rate & most importantly, conversion/goal ratios)

You'll know soon enough if your ROI is on target...

Eric

A
I noticed that too Nathan. I figured the ones complaining before the change were Clarion Hilton Marriott Days Inn's and Lightnup's.
W
I don't use Autotrader. I'm trying to get the clicks with SEM before you do. It's a lot cheaper for me that way.
T
  • T
  • January 29, 2008
I have reduced my auto trader account to the minimum program. I have added my own 800 number to my logo because they pull your number down when you purchase smaller packages. Now the are performing at an acceptable ROI. Get ready I hear they are lifting prices 8 to 30% in March. They may push themselves out of my market in Las Vegas.
A
  • A
    Anonymous
  • February 1, 2008
Just talked to a buddy of mine at Autotrader and was told they’re going to a common renewal date for all of their customers on March 1. I witnessed the same thing happen years ago with TraderOnline and they saw a cancellation/churn rate of nearly 50%. Not sure about all the details, but this is what I’ve heard: My friend says the rates will be going up about 8% so even if a dealer just signed up or renewed their contract last week, they’re about to see another price hike. Seeing the AT.com post still getting comments, I know there are already a lot of people unhappy with their price increases, so if this is true I think it might be “the one” where it hits the fan for Autotrader. I was curious if anyone else heard anything like this?

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  • L
    Lightnup
  • February 1, 2008
If a dealer just signed up or renewed their contract last week, they are NOT about to see another price increase, because they would have just signed up or renewed their contract at the new rate. New contracts and renewals have been being written at the new rate since before the first of the year. Those dealers are NOT going to see another price increase before the common renewal date of March 31st, as is alleged here.

You have misinterpreted what your buddy at AutoTrader told you. Please call him back, get clarification and post the correction here so that Alex doesn't think I'm posting BS again. Thanks.
A
I don't think you're posting BS when you say Autotrader.com is raising rates again....No sir - I totally believe you on that one!
M
Google is in the process of buying new technology that allows all information from a vehicle's description to be made "Google Readable." Once this is complete and the new technology is in place, ATC is done! Imagine entering the description of the vehicle you are interested in and Google immediately finds the most relevant vehicle within the closest geograhpical area. There will no longer be a need for ATC "advertising." Get those resumes together. What Google wants, it usually gets and they want to own the auto biz!
I
  • I
    Ian
  • February 2, 2008
I just heard that AutoTrader was going to a common renewal date for all dealer on March 1st and rates were going up 8%. Even if a dealer just signed up or renewed their contract last week, they’re about to see another price hike.
J
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • February 2, 2008
I just got off the phone with my friend over at the Mercedes dealer I used to work for. Their rep is trying to get another $1000.00 on top of the new contract with nothing extra added to the package. That's way more then a 8% increase over what they are currently paying. My suggestion was to drop'm unless they keep the price the same.
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • February 2, 2008
Ian - Why don't you just say, "Hey, look at what I just copied and pasted from the Monday DearlerRefresh thread without verifying whether it's accurate or not." Unless, of course, you are the one that posted the same inaccurate message on the other thread.

Again, as was posted on THAT thread, if a dealer just signed up, or renewed their contract last week, they are NOT about to see another price hike. Why is that, you might ask. Because if they just signed up, or renewed their contract last week, they would have done so at Autotrader's '08 pricing since this is, um, '08. Those dealers are not about to see another price hike as Ian and Anonymous have both posted erroneously.

But those dealers are still going to be asked to pay more money for their Internet advertising soon, since the word has spread that cars.com is going up 20% across the board in March. (Apparently a rising tide does lift all boats.) Perhaps Ruby or one of the other enthusiastic cars.com employees who have posted here could confirm or deny whether that is true.

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  • M
    McCoy Wood
  • February 3, 2008
Lightnup-

Cars.com is owned by Classified Ventures, which is a joint venture between Belo Corporation, Gannett Company, The McClatchy Company, Tribune Company, and The Washington Post Company. Each market that Cars.com participates in is unique and managed primarily by the media partner(affiliate) located in that region, with the exception of a few markets that are managed directly by Cars.com. That being said, each market controls its own pricing and strategies for their Cars.com business. If a rate increase were to occur it is solely up to the local market/affiliate managing the relationship with the dealer. I have been working in Hampton Roads, VA for Cars.com/Tribune for 4.5 years and we have been very fair to our dealers when it comes to pricing. We are partners. If we were to introduce a price increase in 2008, and yes we are considering it, it would be fair and I doubt it will be close to 20%. I also doubt that Cars.com will receive backlash from the dealers for this, especially those in Hampton Roads,VA.

Hope this helps.

Lightnup, what market do you work in, or are you in AutoTrader.com corporate office in Atlanta?

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  • B
    Brian Grundig
  • February 3, 2008
Facts:

If you've signed with AutoTrader.com within the last 12 months as new business for them they will be seeking upwards of a 30% increase from you by 3/31/08. If you are a "legacy" account with them for longer than 12 months they will be seeking a "Legacy" renewal increase of 8% from you by 3/31/08.

Cars.com will be seeking a 20% increase in most markets also by 3/31/08

As sales in most markets for either imports or domestic brands have flattened and the customer activity from either brand of interned classified companies has flattened, it will be interesting to see which of these companies sustains the larger churn rate of unsatisfied dealer customers in 2008 as more & more dealerships place a larger slice of their advertising budget towards meaningful/trackable results from SEO & SEM.

Should be an interesting year for both AutoTrader.com & Cars.com
S
  • S
    Simon
  • February 3, 2008
How can either of these companies seek to squeeze more out of us as I've been reading on this board and experienced first hand, receiving much less customer activity from either companies products for the past 18 months? I'm not sure how others feel but the strongest ROI for our dealership the past year has been our manuf's efforts in increasing their search engine display advertising and driving internet customers to us from it. We maintained our top tiered products w/both autotrader and cars.com last year but when we have sit downs with both of them in the coming months it will be to completely re-evaluate our positions with them. It's costing us more and contributing less & less, month after month. Both of them are crazy if you ask me, especially in this economic climate. In speaking with dealers in our immediate area, we all have experienced pretty much the same, I don't think this is a unique situation at least not in our area of biz.
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  • L
    Lightnup
  • February 3, 2008
Brian - What you posted as a "fact" is TOTALLY inaccurate and not at all factual. EVERY dealer on a regular monthly rate with AT as of the date that '08 rates became available are "Legacy dealers", as you call them, subject to the "Legacy" rates. Only dealers who were NOT AT customers on that date are considered New business.

What is a fact is that AT reps told their non-signed-dealers that they could get the "Legacy" rate, as you call it, IF they signed up before X date. Those dealers that chose not to are subject to the New dealer rate when they sign up. It couldn't be any clearer or fairer than that.
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  • B
    Blanco
  • February 3, 2008
"Their rep is trying to get another $1000.00 on top of the new contract with nothing extra added to the package. That's way more then a 8% increase over what they are currently paying" We haven't seen a rep from autotrader in about 5 months, can't wait to entertain the next one that decides to show up for a renewal discussion.

L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • February 3, 2008
Blanco - Call 800-353-9350 and tell them you need to see your rep this week or you are cancelling! There's no excuse for not having seen him or her for that long.
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  • T
    TR
  • February 4, 2008
Would the former AutoTrader/Trader Inc/Dominion employees please contact me at [email protected] Thanks
F
  • F
    Former Employee
  • February 4, 2008
TR,

You might get more response to your request if you let us know what is on your mind. For all I know you may be Lightnup's other alias hell bent on revenge against anyone that would leave the ranks. Once you're in the only way out is in a bag, right?

(Lighten up, Lightnup. only teasing)

Cheers.
J
  • J
  • February 5, 2008
Jeez...this post is still getting a lot of attention I guess. Just when I thought it was done, I come back and there are enough new comments to keep me reading for 30 min. I'd call that a hot topic.

Going back to the posts about Autotrader raising rates and having a common renewal date...I worked there for a few years and still have many friends who work there. When I asked about this rate increase/common renewal date, one Autotrader employee told me pretty much the same thing that Lightnup (aka Lighten Up) is saying. Autotrader is basically 'taking care of' their dealers who have been with them long-term. As far as forcing a common renewal date of 3/31/08, this makes sense from a business standpoint. For the dealers that are apparently getting hit with higher prices at that time, I would be mad as hell, but hey, if you want to be on Autotrader you have to pay what they ask for. Many of my clients have "downgraded" their Autotrader packages and are still seeing the same number of leads, so it's producing a better ROI with the cheaper package. (Note that I work primarily with independents).

Simon - I still think that internet marketing on Autotrader.com and Cars.com is a bargain, although as many have pointed out, for some dealers the money could be allocated differently for a better ROI. You may be one of those dealers.

Blanco - Definitely call Autotrader and get the rep in your store. Even if it's just stopping in to say hi, they should be showing their face.

TR - I would be happy to speak to you, but like others, I am curious what you're interested in speaking about. I've worked for both Autotrader.com and Trader Publishing.


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  • B
    Ben
  • February 10, 2008
All I can say is "Wow" after just having found this thread, it seems many of us are looking at our ROI from Autotrader with alot of vigilance these days. I wanted to ask if anyone else has noticed this disclaimer that Autotrader.com has recently place in numerous locations on it's activity reporting section of their back end tool?

† Autotrader.com strives to ensure the accuracy of our reporting and adheres to the Guidelines and Best Practices published by the standard-setting Internet Advertising Bureau. Despite our best efforts, the activities of data scrapers (which use automated "bots" to extract data from our website), coupled with technical complexity of measuring Internet traffic, sometimes make us less confident of our numbers than we would like to be. The numbers marked with an cross above may have been materially inflated by activity outside of our control. We are working to correct the situation, so that future reports will provide you with accurate data to help you drive your business.
A
Ben,

That is very interesting, but in ATC's defense (can you believe I'm going to stick-up for them?!!!) a lot of Internet statistics are not accurate. There are hundreds of reasons for this, and will probably continue to be this way until some sort of regulatory agency/system is put in place for the entire web.

As far as our vigilance toward ATC, they've earned it. Despite statistics not being accurate the money sure is! They charge more and we get less. They're the only vendor I've experienced this with, and they needed to be called out on it.


I
  • I
    Ian Stalter
  • February 14, 2008
Does anyone remember or have they seen this?

AutoTrader.com
------------------------------------------------------------
January 29, 2008

At AutoTrader.com, our primary goal is to help grow your
business. We understand you have many choices when it comes to
advertising and AutoTrader.com strives to be the best place for
you to invest your dealership's hard earned dollars.

This year, we're making even more strides to create an engaging
consumer experience that will send more in-market shoppers to
your showroom. Our newly re-designed Search Results Page and
Vehicle Detail Page will give shoppers more important details on
your inventory and your dealership without having to look
anywhere else. I encourage you to talk to your local Advertising
Consultant about the exciting new innovations that have launched
in the first quarter of 2008.

2008 promises to be our best year yet. We have the best online
automotive partnerships in the industry including MSN Autos,
Edmunds.com, Univision.com, NADA Guides.com and now kbb.com.
We'll also continue our high powered marketing program that
includes advertising on the biggest networks, premier sports
sponsorships and a huge presence at the biggest auto shows.

In addition to innovations and exposure, you'll have market
intelligence to make sure that you have the edge in your area.
On top of it all, our award winning customer service provides
you with the support you need in person with your Advertising
Consultant and on the phone with your Dealer Concierge.

Your Advertising Consultant has probably shared with you that we
are moving to a single renewal date. We hope this will make your
budget planning process simpler and more in line with other
media. Starting on March 31st, 2008, your new monthly rate will
be $620. Please contact your local
Advertising Consultant or the District Manager for your area,
Mark Busby at (901) 299-8602 with any questions or
concerns.

I sincerely appreciate the business partnership we have enjoyed
thus far, and I am committed to making our partnership even more
beneficial to you in the future. Our team promises to bring you
the most effective, cost-efficient and innovative advertising
available. At AutoTrader.com we like to say "What We Do Works"
and we know that we can make it work for you.

Respectfully yours,

Bruce Jackson

Regional Director,
Dealer Sales AutoTrader.com
M
  • M
    Mike
  • February 14, 2008
****************************************************************
Your Advertising Consultant has probably shared with you that we
are moving to a single renewal date. We hope this will make your
budget planning process simpler and more in line with other
media. Starting on March 31st, 2008, your new monthly rate will
be $620. Please contact your local
Advertising Consultant or the District Manager for your area,
Mark Busby at (901) 299-8602 with any questions or
concerns.
*******************************************************************

So has anyone confirmed with their AT rep that the new monthly rates is $620/month????


M
  • M
    Mark
  • February 15, 2008
A similar situation occurred to us a couple years ago. They can't even manage to sent letters like this with the appropriate numbers involved! Why should I believe the statistics they provide us when they can't even send an accurate rubber stamp increase letter to the dealership? Why do we continue to pay them what we do? Please help me with this.
J
  • J
  • February 15, 2008
They do have a valid point about bots.. I scrape our own listings every hour, my competitors daily, and I've found a ton of other sites that scrape them as well (automotive.com, for instance).
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • February 16, 2008
Mark,

Who said the $620 was not accurate? That could very well be the correct number for the dealer addressed in Ian's post above, based on market, inventory size and advertising level. Please check your facts before complaining about things that you may only be imagining.

B
  • B
    Bruce K
  • February 18, 2008
AutoTrader CEO Chip Perry, for instance, says the one thing dealers want to know from him is “why do you raise your rates 20 percent every year?” But they seem to get the value of a medium that is used “seven times more than newspapers,” he says — even if their spending doesn’t nearly reflect it.

http://blog.kelseygroup.com/index.php/2008/02/13/nada-notes-autotrader-ebay-motors-local-markets-and-life-stage-marketing/


M
A lot of good points posted on this subject but to back up to a higher level I think that we may be too focused on whether or not the advertising on websites like autotrader is effective and maybe not focused enough on the real money losing ads that are being run in Newspapers, TV and Radio. I think it is really time that dealers look at reducing conventional ad spend and testing out the various local online ad sources that provide proven results and full reporting and metrics (cost per lead, cost per sale..etc) Internet is a science and it is really time that we all stop guessing with all of our ad dollars and hold advertising companies 100% accountable for the results. With that said I think there is a place for branding but not to the tune of 40k/month like many dealers are spending.

I realize I am simplifying things but if you look a the majority of US dealers, the use of local search and local online advertising is off the mark by a huge margin and only a small % of dealers are truly capitalizing on the emergence of internet shopping being the norm. Even for all the dealers worried about their 3rd party costs they should realize that many of the leads they are buying from these websites could have been theirs first gereration instead of buying it 2nd or 3rd generation for 200-300% more! Maximize your local online advertising and cut the middle man out whenever possible, that is the key!

Many new programs available now to dealers allow them to gauge the effectiveness of all of their ad sources side by side so that they can see what in fact newspaper, radio, tv and internet are doing as compared to one another. Even more related to this string of posts is that you can have all of your 3rd party lead providers side by side and gauge which produce the most leads, lowest cost per sale each day, week, month and year. At the end of the day this is all that matters and will empower dealers to transition the correct amount of money away from costly and ineffective traditional advertising spend.

This has to be the goal, too many dealers are hurting with profits and it doesn't have to be there way.

Mark Bonfigli
President, CEO
Dealer.com, Inc
www.dealer.com
J
Car dealers & ISM's whipsawed in "the perfect storm".

A time line as I see it.
Old School:
---Dealers loyally spend in newsprint.
---Newsprint owned the dealers for decades.
---Newsprint grew fat and happy.

New School:
---Customers Drive dealers onto the net (dealers dont like change;-).
---Internet Classified sites reward Early Adopters (most all of us here are Early Adopters).
---More and more "late to the party" dealers jump into the Net
---BZ was borne (the end can't be far can it? :-)
---Internet ad spending rockeets & ROI plummets for Early Adoptors, but, it's new biz for the old school bunch.
---Internet Classified sites steal marketshare from newsprint
---Internet Classified sites want some of that "newsprint windfall"
---Internet Classified sites grow fat and happy.

New-New School
---Early Adopters, sick of the rate rape, embrace PPC and SEO
---BZ & all others attack new SEO/PPC revenue pool, most are bandaid additions to a duct-taped platform that would fail in anyother highly competitive verticle (not yours Mark B. ;-)
---WebSite builders grow fat and happy.

Where does this lead too?..ISM's still fighting for a flat. Can anyone pass me some vAuto Koolaid?

Me thinks we're in the wrong biz!
just my $0.02
Joe

A
The bullet is taking aim! :)
A
Here ya go Joe. I got some VAuto Koolaid for you :)

Back to Autotrader and I hate to do this. Is anyone else having Alpha/increase discussions with their ATC reps? Does paying or should i say "bidding" for Alpha make sense? If it does I'll jump on it. It's a few weeks past the bidding deadline and no Honda dealership in my market has placed a "bid" yet. Now is the time!!!

Btw...this is Bad Ashley talking...
B
@Ashley
once you sign up they will visit your competition (bring in the big wig from corporate) tell them they can't compete without (insert package here) and tell them how great your business is since you switched to (insert package here) pretty soon your exclusive package isn't so exclusive anymore.
(this all came to me in a dream last night)
btw after your recommendation I switched to v-auto goose-aid much tastier then the old fashioned kool-aid and it's only 15.3% more expensive but you will experience a 25.3% increase in clarity.
J
  • J
    Jimmy
  • March 7, 2008
Ashley, Brian is on target. What time period did they claim this placement of product would remain "exclusive". I'll take a guess that no other Honda dealers have taken the bait because they don't see the value/need for it in the first place. I know of many Honda dealerships with midline product w/Autotrader doing just fine, esp. w/certified pre-owned. I can't see them offering you"exclusivity" for more than a 6 month term.
A
A little bird dropped by the dealership today and mentioned AutoTrader.com reps have been instructed, from on-high, not to post on Dealer Refresh anymore!
J
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • March 7, 2008
Alex, that's is CRAZY NEWS!! But then again, they were all posting anomalously any ways.
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  • D
    Don Kershner
  • March 7, 2008
"A little bird dropped by the dealership today and mentioned AutoTrader.com reps have been instructed, from on-high, not to post on Dealer Refresh anymore!"

Guess they're afraid of the discussions going on here, when you can't hide from the truth you run from it.


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  • P
    PDR
  • March 7, 2008
Nah, they're just pissed that their strategy of attempting to have dealers "bid" on this Alpha product has been revealed. They still think they are all that and a bag of chips but here's a news flash ATC, more of us are looking at the strategy of spending less with you, not more. The ROI doesn't justify the fairy tale sales pitch anymore. Maybe 5 years ago it did, not in 2008 it doesn't.
J
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • March 7, 2008
Note to DR Readers: Don Kershner is not or has any relations to me. Just wanted to clarify that.
B
I for one am going to miss Lightnup :)
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  • L
    Lightnup
  • March 8, 2008
Awww....thanks Brian.

No gag order that I'm aware of. Maybe just some local manager thought it would be a good idea. I agree with Jeff - it's crazy talk.


J
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • March 8, 2008
Lightnup, I tried to email you but it bounced. Anyway you can email me? I have quick a question for you.

Jeff
A
Lightnup - I missed you buddy. Glad to see the gag-order didn't make it to you. I must admit "the little bird" is close to AutoTrader.com, but not officially part of the company.
J
Has anyone seen www.usedcars.com ? It does not care about reports nor charge for anything except the leads. No page-views or clickthru reports.
I
03-28-08 :

SAVE $$$ - Cancel Autotrader Now!!

Autotrader is strong arming dealers into massive price increases with no additional perks, just promises - it's a secret - "They can't tell you now" - but they say "It will be good".

$4500 per month is the current price for the Early Model Premium Dealership Program. The elite, best program.

Autotrader wants to raise it to $7,060 per month - even if you have a signed yearly contract with them.

They say they can and will find a clause in their contract that lets them do whatever the hell they want to do.

I think they are going to implode just like the original Internet Hitler: Autobytel - once powerful, now practically nonexistent.

Cars.com, on the other hand, only charges about $2,400. A much better value and we get the same amount of leads, calls, clicks, maps,etc.

Why the big difference?

To me = No Difference.

Maybe Cars.com is even better.

I believe the economy is in tough shape. ComScore just released data yesterday stating that Google's pay per click ads are down sharply - that means less clicks on the biggest search engine - which means less shoppers online.

Autotrader may be in trouble - they may have over committed on their ad budget - and now need more money from their dealer network to sustain themselves.

My suggestion:
Cancel your expensive Autotrader monthly bill.

Save half the money in the bank and possibly use the other half on different advertising.
I
March 29, 2008:

Autotrader is the new INTERNET HITLER of the dealerworld.

Autotrader is strong arming dealers into massive price increases with no additional perks, just promises - it’s a secret - “They can’t tell you now” - but they say “It will be good”.

$4500 per month is the current price for the Early Model Premium Dealership Program. The elite, best program.

Autotrader wants to raise it to $7,060 per month - even if you have a signed yearly contract with them.

They say they can and will find a clause in their contract that lets them do whatever the hell they want to do.

I think they are going to implode just like the original Internet Hitler: Autobytel - once powerful, now practically nonexistent.

Cars.com, on the other hand, only charges about $2,400. A much better value and we get the same amount of leads, calls, clicks, maps,etc.

Why the big difference?

To me = No Difference.

Maybe Cars.com is even better.

I believe the economy is in tough shape. ComScore just released data yesterday stating that Google’s pay per click ads are down sharply - that means less clicks on the biggest search engine - which means less shoppers online.

Autotrader may be in trouble - they may have over committed on their ad budget - and now need more money from their dealer network to sustain themselves.

My suggestion:
Cancel your expensive Autotrader monthly bill.

Save half the money in the bank and possibly use the other half on different advertising.

I
March 29, 2008:

Autotrader is the new INTERNET HITLER of the dealerworld.

Autotrader is strong arming dealers into massive price increases with no additional perks, just promises - it
T
  • T
  • March 29, 2008
I am currently an employee of Autotrader.com, I'm the guy who sits down with dealers and sells them the product, the AC.
Autotrader.com remains the leader in used car online classifieds, and until that changes, rate increases will continue to happen. Plain and simple.

B
hmmm.... wonder if our friends over at m3post could handle this one for us?
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  • G
    Gary Luscana
  • March 29, 2008
Tony, I'm the dealer customer that's going to tell you "forget it, here's our 30 day written cancellation notice" this year, plain and simple. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes with this outfit, alot of bitterness out there against you guys, got to let you know that people are tired of the same old spiel from Autotrader.
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  • L
    Lightnup
  • March 30, 2008
General Motors announced last week that it is going to spend 50% of its ad budget, or $1.5 Billion, ONLINE over the next three years. eMarketer predicts that U.S. Online ad spending will increase by 23% in 2008. The Kelsey Group just reported that 62% of dealers plan to increase their online spending in the next 12 months.

In spite of those trends, the typical dealership owner/general manager has always been slow to catch on when it comes to leading edge ideas or technology, including the Internet. (Not referring to Dealer Refresh readers, of course.) They reluctantly agree to be online, but have a near-coronary when an effective Internet presence is going to cost them 5% to 9% of their advertising budget. "Highway robbery," they say. Yet they'll spend $40,000, $80,000, $100,000 a month in hard-to-measure "traditional" advertising without blinking an eye because that's what they've always done - and it's an ego-booster to see their picture in the newspaper or on TV. And they'll run their car prices in the paper for the weekend at $2,000 to $5,000 less than what their Internet prices are. (This weekend, 6 of the dealers in my area were guilty of doing just that in Saturday's paper. I track that.) Then they wonder why the Internet isn't bringing the response the paper brought. Of course, that 2-day weekend newspaper ad also costs considerably more than the AutoTrader.com bill does for the entire month.

AutoTrader.com has recently had price increases. Cars.com has recently had price increases. Both companies have issued press releases during the past year announcing new enhancements, partners and capabilities that benefit their dealers and car shoppers, and there will always be more. Anyone who claims that their price increased with "no additional perks," as I Got Scrooged claims, obviously didn't pay attention when given the opportunity to see a current product demonstration of the myriad of new marketing and merchandising tools available to them. I think that's probably safe to say for both ATC and cars.com.

And I say "tools," because having an effective Internet presence takes work on the dealer's part, not just signing up and waiting for the phone to ring. (I know, I'm preaching to the choir here.) Yet most of a rep's time is spent re-training Internet Managers to use the available tools consistently. Or training new IMs because the dealer goes through them like shop rags. They'll do it for a while and results are good, but then they get busy on other projects or get transferred or get lazy, they stop doing it consistently, the results drop off and the dealer thinks it the solution that's not working. Not so.

My point is that Internet advertising is going to become a larger and larger part of the forward-thinking dealer's advertising budget. Why? Because that's where the eyeballs are going. Dealers who think they can compete effectively on the Internet for $750 a month like in the good old days are sadly mistaken. (Likewise, Superbowl ads weren't always $3 million apiece, but they are now.) They may not like it, they may gripe and moan about how AutoTrader.com is supposedly sticking it to them, but there is no disputing that ATC's online audience has grown tremendously since the good old days - while newspaper and traditional media audiences have dropped like rocks. ATC's available tools and solutions for reaching new and used car shoppers have never been greater and they are working very well for the tens of thousands of dealers who utilize them with consistency.

By the way, I was behind a lady at a convenience store last week who bought a gallon of milk for $5.00! Five dollars! It was the same size gallon of milk as it was in 1972 when it was $0.99 per gallon and my brand new Monte Carlo was only $4,200. The plastic jug even looked the same as it did 35 years ago. At least ATC is bringing a bigger audience and more features for the increased cost.

Let the flames begin. Dear God, I wish this thread would just die a peaceful death.
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    Craig
  • March 30, 2008
What Lightnup and Autotrader seem to fail to realize is that when we as dealers compare our call rates/activity from the last three year period and all these "new" features Autotrader has added, we aren't realizing the VALUE of greater ROI from the products. Rates will always go up, that much is a given, but to somehow attempt to justify increases of 100% and more over the three year period in question when we really haven't seen the increase in ROI to justify the increases is beyond me. What is Autotraders strategy? shrinking the total amount of dealerships onsite and squeezing the remainder?

Dealers in my area that I've spoken to at auction in the last several months have all mentioned stepping down in spend w/Autotrader or deciding to cancel entirely and put the money elsewhere to organically grow their activity to their own web site and skipping the third party classified ad vendors almost entirely, this is especially true with larger dealerships with excess of 100 used units on the ground or larger dealer groups w/multiple rooftop franchises.
A
"Dear God, I wish this thread would just die a peaceful death."

Keep praying! Just kidding Lightnup. You do make a good point: the cost of business typically does goes up.

However, in the case of ATC, the costs go up while the results go down. Maybe this is due to the water being muddied by more competitors, but wouldn't that mean you need to get more competitive? Logic escapes me on ATC's current strategies.
W
Hey guys,

My team and I are working on a new autos startup that helps dealers sell cars online. The service, EasyAutoSales.com will be free for dealers and private sellers to list cars and we are very ROI and lead focused.

Like you, we realize the online autos market needs to be modernized to mirror today's online consumer activities. If you're interested in helping us grow and drive more leads for yourselves, please check out our website at EasyAutoSales.com and shoot us a message.

Integration with our site is easy whether you have a DMS or not and we would love to see how we can help.

Thanks.

- Wei Yang
P
  • P
    Pete
  • April 4, 2008
These mini hubs for retailing vehicles are truly the best thing since slice bread.

All that has truly happened is a shifting of ad dollars from print to online, so the price may be up but not the overall ad expense.

In Chicago a one page ad in the Sunday paper can cost $12,000 dollars and this type of leader ad is as worn out as a printed $2 dollar bill still being circulated.

What I find funny is when an ad agency blows so much smoke up a dealer principles you know where that if they spend +-30k on a "high my name is JOE SCHMO the owner of FRICK AND FRACK DEALERSHIP" tv campaign.

***Attention all dealer priciples! You are not a rock star. You are not a movie star. People do not buy cars because you think that you have this larger than life iconic image and are drawn into your store because you promised or guaranteed anything!

Traditional ad companies are so out of touch with e-commerce and have lived off the 15-20% discount kickback from print and tv for years. I know one dealer is billed $300,000 a month by an agency...Can do the math?

Autotrader, Cars, Yahoo autos etc. have literally build a virtual bridge for auto dealers to sell into markets that would not have been able to otherwise.

Google in my opinion a waste of money. The reality is that NO ONE will ever find your store in another market by entering key search words.

Google knows that too and that is why they are quietly testing a search within a search box. "Google" the words "dynamic drive" to see what I mean.

The smartest person I know is the guy from LuxuryMotors.com

He was an early adopter of using adsense but is even smarter because sold a portion of the website but not the stores before the relevant results became what I said previously, worthless.

As for Ebay and franchise dealers, my verdict is still out but feel that this has become a tool to try to maximize profit by selling to the most desirable markets out there but the problem is that Ebay buyers are value buyers and so much for maxin out the pr.

The bottom line is that most people us Google to type the dealer name that they already know and use it as a shorcut instead of typing the whole address. Another for you? Take a guess of how many people still type www into the browser address box or are worried about cap's.

Last but not least I have seen the past and any newbies in the business will to 5-10 years from now how ridiculous it will seem that more money is spent to promote a dealers brick and mortar store rather than their e-site.

A great spring to all and happy motoring!






A
This is an email I received from my boss, I am a field sales rep for autotrader.com. Enjoy!


"YOU Will Want to Read This!!!!!



Team,



In submitting my weekly report to the Regional Management team I am once again going to be asked why we are not meeting our Regional obligations and I am getting pretty tired of having to answer this question. How would you answer? Would you like to spend a day in my shoes? Here is the deal; every one of you must meet your obligations. For those that are barely scraping by you have a hill to climb by Friday.



Here is what you owe this week:




Sam $3622

George $3000

Alicia $2190

Carry $3750

Roberto $3750

Jessica $3347



You need to have a very specific plan in place to reach these numbers so be prepared for a phone call at some point Monday to discuss. I don’t want any excuses because they will not help you reach your new business numbers. This next week will be critical for you and the D90 team. We have a longs way to go and not much time to get there."


B
@Lighntup
is this guy legit? If so maybe I can call and get a price break on that new alpha package?
P
  • P
    Paranoid DSM
  • April 16, 2008
I sympathize with you, I really do. Just think, from now until the end of the year you'll only be able to rely on new business revenue to meat goals since they've pulled all renewel contracts thru already. How is it going to be possible for many reps to hit their revenue goals with ever shrinking territories also? I've heard they've shrunk most reps down to about 30 accounts (that can be a small area of opportunity if your in a metro area) This is not going to be a double digit increase in revenue for Autotrader. I'd be willing to bet they will end up close to 5% revenue growth after all is said & done in December. Don't forget you've got to keep all accounts under 90 days! I left them early last year before the new plan came into play and I've heard nothing but woe from those I know still there. Good luck.
D
  • D
    Dave Blandon
  • April 16, 2008
I guess autotrader is realizing that the tree that grew money for them the past several years has been pruned back drastically this year. We reduced our ad spend with them in January and haven't seen any noticeable loss in activity from them since.
C
  • C
    Churn Burn
  • April 16, 2008
Your district is almost $16,000 under goal with 10 business days left in the month, 7 days if you want the contracts "delivered" to count towards this month (April). That means your region has got to be behind the 8 ball something awful. Autotrader.com, ready, fire, aim!
B
guess lightnup is on the busy side picking up the slack for that other district. We even have the best ATC reps on dealer refresh!
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 17, 2008
No Wonder this guy is retiring !!!

"To All ATC Employees:

I am writing to announce that Craig Hunt has decided to retire on his 65th birthday which is on June 15.

Craig joined AutoTrader.com in October 1999 as a District Sales Manager, and since then he has had a truly storied career in our Dealer Sales organization. Before being promoted in January 2007 to Senior Vice President in charge of all of Dealer Sales, Craig held 8 different management roles and he moved his home 8 times over the past 9 years. In between his first and current jobs, he held these positions: District Sales Manager - Florida; District Sales Manager - Texas; District Sales Manager - North Carolina; Regional Director - Southwest Region; Regional Director - Mid Atlantic Region; Regional Director - South Region; Regional Vice President - West Division; Regional Vice President - Central Division.

Wow, what a list, and what a record of accomplishment and sacrifice for AutoTrader.com. In all of these roles Craig brought to bear his trademark passion and focus on our customers and our sales people. Craig always took a personal interest in the true building blocks of our success: how we select and develop our people, how we reward outstanding performance, and what new products and services we need to develop to stay ahead of the competition. To say Craig has been a prime mover behind AutoTrader.com's incredible growth over the past nine years would be a huge understatement. His leadership will be missed, but we are fortunate that Craig has built a very strong senior leadership team in Dealer Sales that is ready to take AutoTrader.com to the next level.

Starting on April 28, and until we name a new head of Dealer Sales, our Division Vice Presidents, Jeff Catron, Roger Hilterbrandt, and Bob Landers, along with Dave Pyle, our new Vice President of Sales Operations, will report directly to me. From April 28 until June 15, Craig will assist me in selecting our next leader and in ensuring a smooth transition.

Please join me in congratulating Craig on his many successes with our company, and in wishing him a long, healthy, and happy retirement.

chip"

P
  • P
    Pending Cancellation
  • April 17, 2008
TTT, LMAO!!! He's no dummy, following Hal Green's lead! saw the outlook this year, took his options & rolled! How many new hire AC's they looking for in your region 15-20? How's the less is more plan plan working out?
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 17, 2008
Anybody wants an AC (advertising consultant) job with Autotrader? They need fresh meat and new Robots !

"We are growing again!! Below are our latest Advertising Consultant openings for our Division. If you know of a sales professional, please forward this email or have them visit AUTOTRADER.COM, and click “employment opportunities.”

North East Region

North Boston, MA
Providence, RI
Albany, NY (AC opening and a District Sales Manager opening)
Amsterdam, NY
Pittsfield, MA
Fitchburg, MA
Suffolk County, NY
Plainfield, NJ
Northwest New Jersey
Newark, NJ
Danbury, CT

Mid- Atlantic Region

Roanoke, VA
Pittsburgh, PA
Dubois, PA
Winchester, VA
Statesville, SC
Greenville, SC
Charlotte, NC
Lancaster, PA

South Region

Knoxville, TN
Jackson, MS
Pensacola, FL
Tampa, FL

S
  • S
    Steph
  • April 17, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/45hvhm
B
@TTT
Maybe you can start a site like edmunds.com and give us all ideas on how we can get better deals from our ATC reps? Come on what is the "REAL" price for a spotlight ad?
B
  • B
    Bill Eppridge
  • April 17, 2008
Spotlight ads are free, didn't you know that? LOL! Just use them as "giveaway bait" next time your contract comes up for renewal!
B
Yes they do give them away when it comes contract time but they only last for a few months but if want to buy extras they come up with some crazy price.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 19, 2008
Spotlight Ads, ha ha ha , where should I start???

The retail price is $150 a piece; the actual cash value is about $5 a piece. About 60% of dealers don’t even use the spotlights they are allotted.

The person who invented spotlights is a genius, they actually increase exposure but the extent of their effectiveness is yet to be gauged. I would compare spotlights to the Google sponsored results, they show up on top but most people phase them out and look below them. At the end of the day if a car is cheap enough, it will sell anyways, spotlighted or not.

On paper the number of times the spotlights showed up is impressive, but how many people clicked on them??? Autotrader will never show you the click through ratio of those spotlights, it’s probably less than the regular ads, which is about 5%.

If you have any questions for me, post them on this forum.

TTT

T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 19, 2008
How to get Better Deals:

1- Be friends and respect your ATC rep
2- Never tell him business is good
3- Dont use ATC's 800#
4- Always mention downgrade or cancelling
5- Always compare them to cars.com's price
6- Always pay your bill on time

and most importantly, if they threaten to raise your rates, cancel. Trust me, they will come back.
S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 19, 2008
"and most importantly, if they threaten to raise your rates, cancel. Trust me, they will come back"

of course they will, with many markets already so saturated with dealers signed on they will have to.

Wait until the last week of the month to hold out on a price, you should at least be able to half any increase they are throwing at you.

So many good people have left this company in the past 2 years
B
looks like this could be a new thread....Jeff can you help us out?
Title the thread:
"Autotrader.com Buying Tips and Secrets."
Looking to buy some online advertising? Want to get an insider's view of what to know before you buy? Come and chat live with "TTT" on Dealer Refresh former ATC field rep as he shares his extensive knowledge and experience, giving you the ins and outs, tips and
secrets to purchasing your next Autotrader.com advertising package.
.....sorry I have some free time it's raining here ;)

S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 19, 2008
Autotrader has managed to shaft dealer customers along with many employees for so long that naturally it's their time to take the shaft.
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 21, 2008
C'mon guys, grow up.

1. The way you're carrying on, you'd think you've stumbled on some deep, dark insider secrets: "...Wait until the end of the month, threaten to walk, bring up their competitor..." Oh boy, those sure are some new ideas...NOT. Whether it's AutoTrader.com, cars.com, your credit card company or every single one of your dealerships,threatening to take your business elsewhere and mentioning the competition's prices, rates, offers, is as old a tactic as there is. You think cars.com won't make a better offer when you turn in your cancellation? Think again. Considering that car dealerships are best known for chasing after the prospect as he/she leaves the showroom, offering one last "best deal if we can do business today," I wouldn't be quite so smug about pricing integrity.

2. The sales manager's email to his/her staff doesn't sound any different than many of the sales meetings I had to endure when on the retail floor and we were behind target. So what. It's a slow month, anyone other than a complete moron knows that the economy isn't exactly booming, there are quotas to hit and middle management is getting heat from upper management. Tell me you don't get the same thing from your sales management when the dealer principal or GM is unhappy that your numbers are way behind projection for the month. I've been in dealership meetings when GMs have yelled and screamed and thrown whatever is handy just to make the point that the sales staff needs to get back on track. This is business, not a fraternity.

3. Looking for new employees? Yup. So what? How many of your dealerships have the never-ending "Salespeople Wanted" ad in your local paper every weekend to replace the newbie salespeople you blow out as soon as they have sold their relatives and neighbors, or the veterans who can't stand being demeaned by your management any longer? I know in my region/district, they are adding positions and no one has left in the last 8 months. Can you say that about your sales staff?

4. When I began posting anonymously, I was called a coward, my integrity was questioned and I was told how I was doing a disservice to the many fine people who work at AutoTrader.com....and all I was doing was correcting misinformation that others had posted. But TTT, who clearly has snapped under the sales pressure, is given a pass even though he/she shows a complete lack of ethics or morals by posting private company communications (I don't care what company you work for or how disgruntled you are, that's a crappy thing to do) in a public forum? Give me a break. Talk about doing a disservice to the fine people at ATC? TTT wins the prize in that category.

S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 21, 2008
So I guess you missed your $5k DAR goal for the month also?
F
I am one of those dealers that decided to stop using Autotrader.com after so many years, I thought it was one we had to have but after looking at all of the numbers for the last two years we decided to cancel and move the advertising money to other places, so far we have a huge success with the local "online newspaper" and streaming radio. I really like the streaming radio from the local stations. If you have not checked that out you might find your missing some listeners, cheap to.
B
Maybe I should repost my first question?

@Lighntup
is this guy legit? If so maybe I can call and get a price break on that new alpha package?
B
or this one?

guess lightnup is on the busy side picking up the slack for that other district. We even have the best ATC reps on dealer refresh!
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 21, 2008
@Lightnup or should I say ATC PR Dept?

I did not create this forum, I am merely stating my humble opinion. In this case I am pro-dealer, get over it !
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 21, 2008
TTT or should I say unethical self-centered jerk?

It takes a truly warped mind to try justifying the posting of multiple private inter-company communications on a public forum as merely stating one's opinion. It's stepping over the line and I don't give a rat's butt what company is involved...AutoTrader.com, cars.com, Radio Shack or Chuckie Frigging Cheese, you don't deserve the paycheck you are receiving from your employer.

It's embarrassing to know that someone with your lack of integrity works for the same company I do. If you are truly pro-dealer, then quit trying to sell them something you obviously don't believe in. Do yourself, your employer and especially your clients a favor and quit your job. Do it today. Do it right now. Make that call. I'm sure your DSM is standing by. Better yet, maybe you'll be revealed and they'll fire your ass. One can only hope.
J
  • J
    Jerome Jerenovich
  • April 21, 2008
Question: Has anyone started to post ACTUAL pictures of their new car inventory with sites such as AutoTrader? I know that companies like ATC a really pushing new cars as a part of the classifieds play..... and was wondering if any progressive dealers are seeing results from posting actual pictures of live inventory.


S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 21, 2008
Taking actual photos on new vehicles does draw more attention to them on autotrader as many dealerships rely on stock images alone but the activity that new vehicles receive on autotrader compared to used vehicles is pale in comparison, speak to a dealership that has signed on with autotraders New Car Partnership product and see if they thought it was worth the additional ad spend. Autotrader stresses their value in the new car market but you will see much stronger activity from other sources on new vehicles. They've got a huge segment of the online used audience but have not much to offer in the new vehicle customer audience. They might have a product set for new car but no audience.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 22, 2008
@Lightnup:
I never Insulted you or called you names, I would appreciate it if you would do the same.
If you have beef with me, why don’t you post your contact info and I will be more than happy to call you. Everybody is tough behind a keyboard, my 6 year old son is tough behind a keyboard, calling me names only shows how immature you are.
By the Way, I'm not an AC and I don't report to a DSM!

S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 22, 2008
TTT, question for you. If your not an AC and don't report to a DSM, does anyone in district or regional management even remember your name?
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 22, 2008
TTT,

Quit your job yet? Or do you plan to continue collecting a paycheck from the company whose products and management you anonymously ridicule in public forms? What a class act. Your 6-year old must be so proud.
M
  • M
    MB Dealer
  • April 22, 2008
Lightnup,
The issue at hand is not TTT, its companies like autotrader who feel they can bully dealers and extort money from them year after year.

I agree, he shouldn't talk against a company he works for but maybe he's disgusted with the way autotrader has turn itself into.

By the way, I renewed with AT at the same rate a month ago, this is after I told them to piss off when they presented me with a $2000 rate adjustment.

Chuck.
M
  • M
    Manny
  • April 22, 2008
Many are disgusted with what autotrader has turned into, many are afraid to say anything, many dealers stepping down with product or cancelling, many sales people working twice as hard to earn almost half as much, many mid level execs trying desperately to climb to senior exec level to further seperate themselves from field sales & operations, many good people have departed the company the past year out of frustration, many inside autotrader offices reading this wondering when if ever this thread will ever end.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 22, 2008
Lightnup,

I think you'll be out of a job before me, did you read Chip's email? I think he was talking about you when he said he will eliminate discretionary spending!!!!

Sitting on your computer all day and blogging is not the right way to spend autotrader's money! I'm sure dealers would prefer a small discount in lieu of your bloated salary. You are a known target now, so watch out!!!! it might take them longer to find me!



L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 22, 2008
TTT,

I was going to read Chip's email but figured I'll just wait until you post it here.


S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 22, 2008
Wow, elimination of "...discretionary spending". Having decimated sales peoples pay plans and raised rates the percentages they have, they've run out of room. Good luck to both of you. In the immortal words of Johnny Cash "I hear that train a comin', it's comin' round the bend"
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 23, 2008
TTT,

I understand now why you have to cut and paste directly from private emails...your reading comprehension isn't good enough to paraphrase something without getting it wrong. Go read Chip's email again... "eliminating discretionary spending" is not in there.

You probably shouldn't use the TTT moniker unless you actually know how to TTT.
T
I can't believe I am about to say this, but I am actually beginning to like Lightnup.

I have absolutely no respect for somebody who would go around trashing his employer like TTT. Whether TTT is an AC or reports to a DSM is inconsequential, in my opinion. Somehow his/her job is directly related to the selling or servicing of ATC accounts, which is how ATC makes its money. If TTT feels so strongly against his employer's tactics, he should quit. Simple as that. Reason? His/her activities on behalf of the company, whether in sales or not, help ATC to achieve exactly what he is railing against!

At least Lightnup seems to genuinely believe in what ATC is trying to accomplish, whether us in retail like it or not. That is admirable, and working hard to promote a company whose products, services, and philosophies you believe in is called integrity. Look it up TTT.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 23, 2008
@Lightnup @Tim Morris

I "copy-pasted" 2 emails, one was a job announcement (which is public information) and the other was a retirement notice (not a top secret)...

Lightnup wants to turn things around, make me look like a bad girl hoping that would score him points with his puppeteers.

I am expressing my point of view, some might consider that brave others disloyal, obviously the AT robots and brown noses think of me as the latter.
S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 23, 2008
Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. If you only knew how some autotrader sales people have been treated would you be laughing at the word integrity. Saying one thing and doing another are in fact two very different things.
B
Wow does Lightnup need to Lightnup?
sorry couldn't resist :)

TTT,
just curious.....How did you happen to stumble upon this site?
T
  • T
    TTT
  • April 23, 2008
Brian,

A coworker emailed me a link. She's also pissed at lightnup for being such a dork.
A
WOW! There is a lot to catch-up on after a few days at the Digital Dealer Conference.....and I don't know what else to say other than WOW!
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 23, 2008
TTT wrote: "Lightnup wants to turn things around, make me look like a bad girl hoping that would score him points with his puppeteers. I am expressing my point of view, some might consider that brave others disloyal, obviously the AT robots and brown noses think of me as the latter."

TTT,

1. If I had even the slightest desire to "score points," why would I post anonymously? DUH. What good does scoring points do me if no one even knows who I am? I don't care about scoring points any more than I care what your co-worker thinks of me. I, like you, am just expressing my opinion, like it or not.

2. If, as you say, you are convinced that management is made up of "puppeteers," and those who don't share your negative attitude are "robots" and "brown-noses," then how do you get out of bed every morning and report to work? If you owned a company, would you want you to work for you? I highly doubt it.

Please, for your own mental health and the potential safety of your co-workers (hopefully you're not a gun owner), exhibit some real bravery by finding a job somewhere else.

Despite your undoubtedly valuable contribution to the company (with your attitude I'm sure you're just a shining example of productivity), I suspect that AutoTrader.com will manage to carry on after you are gone.

Y
  • Y
    YUO
  • April 24, 2008
I have to agree with TTT - ATC has screwed up over the last 12 months to compensate for increased cancellations and after one of their top leaders that treated "ATC employees like first class citizens" retired it all went down hill from there.

Regardless, this posting is about Pricing - it all comes down to ROI and dealers weren't receiving it as they did years ago, (more competition SEM/SEO, Lead providers, free sites that get value Craigslist/Web2Cars ) are going to keep making it tougher for ATC. Also, with there own sale people not getting compensated the way they use to there are going to be more cancellations, less service, and more TTTs internally and stay until they find a better opportunity, and the Lightnups who I'm guessing (since he/she hasn't ever stated what they do for ATC) never go into the field to meet with dealers and here their concerns face to face will continue to not listen to their internal customers (employees) and external customers and think they are the 800 lb gorilla that can just auto renew everyone at any time and think there are no other alternatives for dealers -- which again is not true and it will continue be more competitive.

If Google opened up all inventory to be searchable or came up with a Google Autos or Google Motors division it would be game over for ATC and others.

So how will ATC try to keep up with there growth/revs/profitability? Continue to do what they have done the last 12 months and - cut costs/compensation plans and keep raising rates that do not equal the value the dealer gets in return.

Do this and there will be more problems - fix it by stop adding more reps to markets keep the top 4-5 reps per market pay them better and give incentives to "Service" the book of business give dealers more options and price levels (ipod model)

just my 2 cents..
S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 24, 2008
"I have to agree with TTT - ATC has screwed up over the last 12 months to compensate for increased cancellations and after one of their top leaders that treated "ATC employees like first class citizens" retired it all went down hill from there"

So true. What they're left with is a bunch of "Yes Men" in senior management. I'm actually trying to come up with a sector of people in which they've dealt with that they haven't manage to totally piss off, dealers, sales people, inside production staff, etc.

Y
  • Y
    YUO
  • April 24, 2008
Just as I posted last night - more competition - If ATC was a public company I would be shorting the stock at this point --

Here is a new alternative similar to the "indeed.com, and simplyhired.com" in the job board market...

Jeff--- you might want to contact them to give your readers some more insight?..

iSeeCars.com -- A Powerful Web2.0 Search Engine for Used Car Deals

Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.

Team from Harvard, IIT, Peking University, Princeton Launches a Revolutionary New Way to Search for Used Cars Online

Boston, MA (PRWEB) April 24, 2008 -- An experienced team of PhDs, software engineers, and former entrepreneurs, hailing from top universities throughout the world such as Harvard, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Peking University, and Princeton, has launched the public beta version of iSeeCars.com after having it in alpha for several months for testing and user feedback. iSeeCars.com is a revolutionary new Web2.0 search engine for used cars that gives consumers a powerful way to search for cars for sale across the Web and to discover and find the right car at the right price more easily, quickly and smartly. iSeeCars.com automates many of the manual, time-consuming steps that a consumer typically goes through today in the online search process.

iSeeCars Used Car Search Engine
iSeeCars Used Car Search Engine

iSeeCars is REALLY useful! The search functionality is a huge leap forward than what exists today, and the scroll-over data analysis tool is a really nice feature. I am impressed!! It reminded me a little of how kayak.com has really improved on flight searching (over Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, etc.).
"With just one click, users of iSeeCars.com will be able to see used car listings from thousands of websites such as car classifieds sites like Craigslist, Cars.com, and Google; newspaper sites like New York Times and Boston Globe; and auction sites like eBay along with many local dealership websites," said Jim Lee, a Co-Founder. "Think of iSeeCars.com as the Google for car classifieds. We conceived of and developed iSeeCars.com as a result of our personal frustrations with our own experiences in having to go through the tedious effort of performing multiple searches on multiple websites such as Craigslist, Cars.com, Autotrader and in having to spend an enormous amount of time manually combing through the car classified listings looking for the right car deal."

Not only does iSeeCars.com provide a simple one-click search, but it also gives consumers relevant, insightful guidance, tools, and information to more easily and quickly discover a potential car deal through its innovative, proprietary ACAR (Automated Car Analysis and Ranking) technology. For example, when a consumer performs a cars for sale search on iSeeCars.com, the search results of car listings are automatically and impartially sorted based on the extent to which the car may be a "potential deal," with the car listings displayed at the top more likely to be a potential deal than the ones towards the bottom. Thus, automating for consumers what they would have to do manually today to find a car deal, saving them much time, effort and frustration. iSeeCars.com's technology algorithmically determines the extent to which the car is a "potential deal" based on a number of factors such as:



* how the asking price compares with the market
* whether the car has a clean car history
* whether the seller has maintenance records/receipts
* whether the car still has a warranty
* whether the seller is moving, in which case the seller maybe more willing to negotiate
* whether the car is a non-smoker's car
* whether the seller is the original or second owner of the car
* whether the car has had new or replaced parts like tires, brakes, etc


Another way iSeeCars.com is transforming the way consumers look for used cars is by providing "Listing Insight" for each car classified ad summarizing the key features and selling points depicted in the seller's listing description about the car's condition (how well has the car been maintained, was it garaged, etc), history (has it been in an accident), ownership, warranty, negotiability, among other things. The functionality effectively lets users preview the listing in an easily comprehensible manner in order to more quickly determine which listing maybe worthwhile learning more and contacting the seller about. Often times, the seller's descriptions are presented in an unstructured way and can take some time for a consumer to read through it and understand the key points made. iSeeCars.com's unique technology automates this step by analyzing each car classified description, detecting the key selling points, and presenting them in a standard, structured summary.

When a consumer discovers a car that is of interest, the consumer may also desire to find out if there are similar cars for sale that maybe a better deal. iSeeCars.com's one of a kind "Compare Prices with Similar Cars" tool allows users to graphically see the prices of other cars of the same make, model, year and within a similar mileage range. "If there are similar cars with a lower price, it's a great tool for the consumer to easily look up those car listings in case there might be a better car for a better deal," added Lee.

"Since the launch of the alpha version several months ago, we have received very positive feedback from consumers." One consumer from Boston commented, "iSeeCars is REALLY useful! The search functionality is a huge leap forward than what exists today, and the scroll-over data analysis tool is a really nice feature. I am impressed!! It reminded me a little of how kayak.com has really improved on flight searching (over Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, etc.)." Another user emailed us saying, "The Listing Insight is an excellent feature...the Price comparison tool is awesome for price-sensitive people like me to look for good deals."

The functionalities described are just some of the many on iSeeCars.com. "We will continue to add more helpful features and tools, search more websites beyond the thousands of sites we currently crawl, and launch the service in more and more cities," said Lee. The best feature of all is that iSeeCars.com is free for consumers to use.

Currently, the iSeeCars.com service is available for searching for used cars in the following city metros: used cars Boston, used cars New York, used cars San Francisco, used cars Los Angeles, used cars Philadelphia, used cars Dallas, used cars Houston, used cars Phoenix, used cars Seattle, and used cars Atlanta.
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • April 24, 2008
"...and the Lightnups who I'm guessing (since he/she hasn't ever stated what they do for ATC) never go into the field to meet with dealers and here (sic) their concerns face to face..."

Every day, all day long, that's what I do...meet with dealers face to face and hear their concerns. Take cancellations, sell new dealers, take downgrades, upgrade dealers, re-sign canceled dealers. Work with my happy dealers, work with my unhappy dealers. Do my best to assist all of them in getting the most out of their online presence.

What I don't do is focus on how ATC used to do this, used to do that, used to pay their salespeople like this, used to be priced like that, used to give out better free stuff, used to have group hugs and used to sing Kumbaya around the ATC campfire.

Yeah well, gas used to be $1.09 a gallon, city traffic didn't used to be so bad, the margins on new cars used to be higher and people didn't used to be able to go online to get factory invoice. So what? You either deal with it or you make yourself miserable by focusing on how unfair it is, wishing it was the way it used to be and, like TTT, spread your miserableness by ridiculing and criticizing your employer in public forums. I know which method works for me.


A
To clarify why this thread was started: it is not about singing Kumbaya again - it is about a decreasing ROI. If some AutoTrader.com employees have their own opinions of things, then that is an internal ATC problem.

This thread is definitely out of control when reading it from an AutoTrader.com perspective. If this was about my company, I'd have had multiple heart attacks by now.

AutoTrader.com Corporate - if you're listening (and I know you are), please take a look at the Dealer Refresh article about Husker BMW - there is a lesson to be learned about listening and acting there.
J
  • J
    JL
  • April 24, 2008
Well said Alex! But I think if Corp. had a prayer of stopping the rolling freight train that has been this thread they would have tried to do it after you posted it in November of last year!




S
  • S
    SOS
  • April 24, 2008
ATC Corp would love to ping ISP's of this thread and immed fire all involved. Notice how many folks posted w/serious arguements in their defense this entire thread? Has to be a good reason for that one don't you think? I'd personally like to hear them seriously address the obvious lack of ROI in the past two years but the silence is deafening from their corp front lines.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • May 2, 2008
Back from vacation....it felt good to be away from all this drama!
So, what's happening? I heard lighten up got written up !
S
  • S
    SOS
  • May 2, 2008
If it involves ATC you know there's drama! Welcome back from vaca. just in time for the New Car Partnership Kool-Aid drinking contest!
T
  • T
    TTT
  • May 3, 2008
The hundreds of millions they are about to spend on this campaign is a terrible waste of money and couldn't come in a worst time. New car business is horrible right now. This money is better spent modernizing the website and optimizing the search quality.

S
  • S
    SOS
  • May 3, 2008
They've come to market way late in trying to capture revenue from dealers on new car advertising. Between the manuf's initiatives with display advertising on search engines and many other successful venues dealers have been utilizing, ATC has been asleep at the wheel and missed the boat on this one almost entirely. If dealers only knew how very small in comparison ATC's new car searches are in relation to used car searches would they be extremely skeptical on spending precious ad dollars going after new car customers with Autotrader.com. I'm sure they're too busy patting each other on the back in Atlanta to even realize this or even admit it. Purple mustaches from all the kool-aid I guess.
F
Looks like might have been a good idea to cancel autotrader
S
  • S
    SOS
  • May 4, 2008
Frank, the sad fact is that their attitude is so cavalier that they will actually expect you to come beggin back to them within a 3 to 6 month period. Some dealers would in the past and come to a compromise on pricing but so many dealers are tired of the game that they've written off autotrader and have found pastures just as green for less ad spend elsewhere. The 800lb gorilla has been on a diet the past year and is now down to about 250 lbs.
L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • May 4, 2008
TTT provided this myopic, cockeyed marketing analysis: "The hundreds of millions they are about to spend on this [new car] campaign is a terrible waste of money and couldn't come in a worst time. New car business is horrible right now. This money is better spent modernizing the website and optimizing the search quality."

TTT, the company that provides your paycheck is launching a huge consumer-centric advertising campaign aimed at driving more shoppers to dealers' new car inventories at the very time when new car business is horrible. And you have a problem with that? Perhaps you'd rather wait until new car sales are at record highs and THEN offer to help our dealers sell more new cars...when they don't need the help? I hope you don't aspire to management or we're all in trouble.(And SOS is right, ATC's new car traffic has always been much smaller than used car traffic...that's why they are launching a new car campaign. DUH.)

TTT also wrote: "I heard lighten up got written up!"

Didn't happen. Your sources suck. Instead of chasing rumors, take a marketing class. Your employer, whom you enjoy dissing so much, will probably even pay for it....unless they discover who you are first.


S
  • S
    SOS
  • May 4, 2008
ATC should've pushed into the new car sector SERIOUISLY three years ago. Now playing "catch up" in deciding to promote new car sector in the midst of the worst recession in 30 yrs. Is it a good idea ?, yes, will it be effective? no, it's tantamount to pi$$ing into the wind.

Autotrader is like a second grader who keeps raising their hand but doesn't know the answer when called upon. Ready, Fire, Aim.
F
Wow you two are really in some kind of pissing match, if it was not for this post I am not sure what you two would do?

Anyway my thoughts regarding Autotrader.com. I like many others thought you needed Auto trader; I have to admit it is nice to afford the luxury of having them if you have money to burn. I checked my ROI for two years and what I spent with AT, Found it did not seem like a very good business decision to keep them. I have heard all the arguments from the reps as I have had three come by to try and get me to resign. Since leaving auto trader I have taken those dollars and used them to create more relevant traffic for my store. Some think I am crazy for not using them but AT is not our only source for web traffic. If you take a real serious look at what AT brings to the table you might also decide to move on without them.

If you stand back and take a real serious look at AT you will see that we pay to have our vehicles posted on Autotrader.com. On each search page there are banners everywhere doing everything but directing eyes to your vehicles, When eyes do land on your page what do they see? Your vehicle right, but what other advertising is on that page that you paid for? I believe if I paid for that page it should be mine, for my vehicle, my web address, my credit link. No other banners at all, no other links, no other credit advertisements period. Auto trader has it made because for every vehicle on the site that is another number, for every number there is revenue. I think it is great they make money and that is my goal also, but I am not spending my budget with someone who lets others advertise on my pages.(I just pulled up a at page and counted 14 links for other advertisers) WOW!!! How much revenue do the recieve from each and every page, might be they should pay the dealers so they have pages for everyone else to advertise on. When they stop that practice then they will have earned my business back, but they will have to cut the cost by more than half. It seems they think Dealerships cannot do business without them, I assure you that you can increase your business without them.


Just my opinion

A
Right on Frank! This is exactly what I did a long time ago. In fact, we were so shocked with how poor the ROI was, we had our ATC rep bring in 2 years worth of reports and worked backwards. Just to give you an idea of how bad it was: two weeks after we were done our ATC rep quit to come sell cars for us - lol. This was back in 2005.

When this article was started (November of 2007) I was in the tail-end of a 3 month trial with ATC. At the time, we had two new GM's who swore we had to be there, so we gave it another shot. We're not paying for AutoTrader.com anymore. We have our Toyota store on because it is free through the Toyota regional ad agency. Because of this account I still get visits and calls from ATC. I have to say, our two newest ATC reps are incredibly nice and accommodating. At the end of the day it isn't the reps who make a ROI - it is the product, and it needs to change.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • May 5, 2008
Lightnup, how could my sources be wrong if they sit 20 feet away from you! But in any event, it's okay, you can continue playing macho man in this forum... it's amusing!

Alex and Frank, ATC works, it might not have worked for your store but overall it works, what I’m talking about here is the used car classifieds section.

The New vehicle components are a joke, the credit center is useless, the bulk of visitors will continue searching for vehicles the old fashion way.
Autotrader's viewership has increased but due to the rerouting and refuneling of these visitors the average used car dealer is receiving less and less activity year after year.
If it wasn't for the "All" radio button, when searching for a car, new car clicks would be non-existent. The idea there is to have consumers look at new car advertising whether they like it or not!







L
  • L
    Lightnup
  • May 5, 2008
Okay, this will be my last post to this thread, because it's embarrassing that it keeps getting bumped to the top because of a malignant cancer like TTT, who truly is not worth the time it takes to reply.

No matter what company it is, whether it's ATC or any of your dealerships whose employees post here, to have an employee who publicly demeans, ridicules and undermines the company's management, products and reputation while gleefully taking a paycheck from them is absolutely disgusting and the perfect example of the term lowlife.

Not every decision made by ATC management has been the right one (clearly evidenced by the hiring of someone like TTT). And I have no problems with Alex or David's recent posts which are based on what did or didn't work for them. But TTT intentionally discouraging potential customers from considering her own company's products is a slap in the face to the people she walks through the front door with every morning and to those of us who are out here sincerely interested in helping our dealers maximize their online results through our solutions.

TTT, you apparently think you know who I am but you have no clue. Instead of giving that any more thought, you should be spending your time updating your resume, lying to your next employer about being a valued, loyal employee. What a joke. Only wish I could be there when you are eventually escorted off company property.

That's it. I'm done. Sorry for this thread being bumped to the top one last time by me. It will not happen again.
T
  • T
    TTT
  • May 5, 2008
Lightnup,
I wasn't the one who wrote you up, you might want to send some hostility and anger towards them not me. It's sad you're leaving us, Goodbye.
N
I've been reading through some old dealerrefresh articles then came across this one. I noticed most comment strings are in the 8 to 30 range, but this one is at 262 comments - holy crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I guess this one will make it 263.

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who hates autotrader.


O
Autotrader is just like the newspapers were a few years ago. They will keep increasing rates by hitting us with new little tools that are useless. I have tried to sit down with my local same brand dealers to see whether we could all step down to their cheapest package, but some of the other dealers think they are getting more value when paying all this money.

As long as us dealers keep paying and paying their insane fees, they will keep increasing them every year. The only answer at this time would be to create a dealer co-op and join forces to create a replacement of autotrader. Keep in mind that without the dealers autotrader is nothing, because we have the inventory. Take away the inventory and they are cooked.

Just a thought.....maybe we can put some heads together and create a fix to this instead of keep bitching about it...
F
  • F
    Former Autotrader Publishing Rep
  • July 6, 2008
As someone that worked for Trader publishing for 8 years, it's interesting to "hear" the dealers side of things and to also get a fly on the wall perspective of how you think and feel about advertising.

Respectfully I must also say that many of the viewpoints sound like "typical" dealer rhetoric. Lying to your rep to make him give you a deal? Yikes...but not only not suprising, here is a little tip. We (meaning any person that sells you anything for your dealership) essentially feel that most of you are incapable of telling the truth. So I guess on that front, we all get what we give.

The concept of "they are raising their prices because they can" is also just slightly off the mark.
The goal is to have fewer people paying more for fewer ads, therefore there is less to contend with and more money per "ad".
Flawed business plan, you bet..but I didn't make up the rules, upper management did.

They are in the process of killing the magazine side, frankly the best value out there. Name another industry that has a publication created JUST FOR THEM...and yet most of you refuse to use it. What are you thinking people?

You get to spend about $20.00 an ad for one week, and the average sell through on the ads is less than 4 weeks. IF you know how to buy and have a sales force that is worth a darn. So at the end of the day you drop $80.00 to make $2k? Let's assume you don't make $2k on a car. Plug in your own numbers the math works. If it doesn't, perhaps a class on buying your product would help. During my time with the magazine side, my average dealer spent about $50k a year to make $300k. Guess what, HE STILL COMPLAINED THAT HE WAS PAYING TOO MUCH!!! You guys kill me.

All this time, when you bought a magazine ad, it went online for free.

Now having said all that....I respect my dealers...well most of them. There are a few that if they were hanging off of a cliff and telling the truth would save them, would plummet to their deaths not being able to muster a true statement.

The world as you know it has changed at ATC. They are now in charge of all the publication entities and and have released a majority of the senior staff.

The only folks left are following the plan. Fewer customers, paying more money for fewer ads.

Back in the day we used to pride ourselves on the ROI. We were the only one's in advertising that could show you a REAL one. Now, I have no idea where market penetration is, but its less than last year by far. So every dime you spend now will be less impactful than previous years. It is what it is.

I want to close with a quick story that makes it hard for you guys. I know there are lots of good honest folks out there, but too often the EGO gets in the way.

My dealer only wanted to run 10 ads a week regardless of the fact he had a 50 car lot. The price break was at 12 cars. It's a rule and as such I couldn't break it. A Manager could, but not a lowly sales rep. So this guy tells me he is going to drop. I ask him haow many cars he sells a month from my ads. He replies 15. So he is spending $26.00 for a two week ad or $390.00 every two weeks. $780.00 a month.
I asked what he was making a car. "$1800.00 per"

So he makes $27k a month on an $800.00 investment and is willing to blow that for $52.00 a week.
He looks at his Dad and back at me and says..."Ok we'll keep running." He hadn't even thought of it.

Please guys, do the right math.

Good luck in the car business....you are going to need it.


E
Autotrader reps, want to add some value? Use this forum to your advantage.

Don't try to re-sell us. Don't try to use your re-tooled sales pitches from your old-school marketing dept.

The people on this forum know the business, know the lingo and simply "get-it."

How can you help us use your platform to improve our business? What can you do to help our dealerships stand out using the tools you have available? What are the little things that can make a difference?

How can you add value rather than simply walking into our stores and saying "Sign here, your rates went up." My rep in NY tries to help with new ideas, suggestions and tries her best to 'sell' new items when needed. [Other regions - not so much...ironically, that's where we spend the most.]

The 'regulars' on this site have provided more than enough constructive, professional feedback & suggestion to keep the product marketing folks at AT busy for a while.
If they don't want to take the time to simply print the discussions here and conduct their own brainstorming sessions, I'd be more than happy to put together a consulting session that would consist of the most direct, on-target feedback - Jeff, Alex, myself, (etc...) would provide all the help needed.

[Sessions start at 100k/day. Your investment would be recovered just by my renewed contracts alone in a couple of months. I'll be sure to stop by to have you sign the paperwork; at the end of the month, as you're trying to sit down for 5 minutes to grab just one bite of your sandwich.]

F
  • F
    Former Autotrader Publishing Rep
  • July 7, 2008
After reading through these posts and the last one, I am sure you guys get something, but it's not advertising.

Eric you write "How can you help us use your platform to improve our business? What can you do to help our dealerships stand out using the tools you have available? What are the little things that can make a difference?"

As I respond to this keep in mind, I no longer work for AT.
So this is just my 2 cents. Discount it if you will.

The dealers I dealt with seem to want one comprehensive program that covers all the bases. Unfortunately, it does not exist.

Many dealers think that by building a webpage they have addressed their internet needs. Again, not the case.
Advertising for your dealerships will reflect a mix of many different places because people go to these places to do their research. So AT is one source, newspapers another (though not quite as uesful), TV, Cable, direct mail (which is tough to use well), ETC.
The most powerful tool in your arsenal will be follow up. You need to track your calls and do a much better job of handling your phone ups. One program is who'scalling.com. The downside is you have to publish an 800 number in your ads, but the upside is you get a comprehensive report showing when the calls were made, the call duration, where they called from within the city and so on. Last time I checked it you had acces to 38+ reports to help track where your calls were coming in from.
The other great feature was call recording. To be able to sit back and listen to your sales staff handle calls then train to the needs of your staff is huge.
Using this program you can see immediately where you money is best spent and make weekly changes to enhance these dollars.

At the end of the day NO ONE ad group will bring in a program that handles all the levels perfectly. That why you get the big bucks to run your dealership.

Do an honest review of the different sources you get your ups from. If you get some from AT great, use it as long as the amount paid is less than the amount made. Pretty simple.
Same goes for any source.
A good review of what you actually spend per vehicle for everything is a good idea. Divide staff costs, lights, phones, rent, everyting by the number of cars on your lot and then roll those suckers out every 30 days.
I had dealers that could throw birthdays for cars they had sitting on their lots prior to using me. Pretty scary.


E
To FAPR.

[...After reading through these posts and the last one, I am sure you guys get something, but it's not advertising...]

You're saying this to a group consisting a people who have a website who just ranked best dealer website (Alex), one of the top dealer destination communities (Jeff) and myself (ADUSA online marketing initiatives) and so many others here that do, in fact, "get" the adv/mktg. element of the business. (The list is long...not slighting anyone by not mentioning you...)

While I can appreciate your attempt at bringing the value - share something an early adopter can get excited about. Call recording? Different 800#'s? Good follow up? ...old news.

Dealers need to know about the new products/services that can help them...IE: Google AdPlanner, new developments in Flash (like Jeff's article) Analytics strategies, social media optimization strategies, etc...
F
  • F
    Former Autotrader Publishing Rep
  • July 7, 2008
I guess thats my point... when you throw this out "While I can appreciate your attempt at bringing the value - share something an early adopter can get excited about. Call recording? Different 800#'s? Good follow up? ...old news."

I guess my question is are you so busy at looking at the early adopter information that you forget what actually works now?

By the way congratulations on those accomplishments, I meant no disrespect to you or the guys that get it. I just have seen so many that frankly never knew what "it" was. But I digress.

I have been out of the business for nearly 6 months now. I am sure what was, is compeletely different now.

If you guys are doing all of the above mentioned things and maintaining good consistent customer service, then thats great.
In our area, the next dealer I meet that is doing all of that correctly...will be the first.

Maybe I need to move to where more folks get it. :)


A
Former ATP rep: thank you for your comments. You do realize this thread is about Autotrader DOT COM pricing and really has very little to do with what you're typing. Don't get me wrong, it is a good conversation to have, but you're not adding much to either side of this particular argument.

Just out of curiosity, what compelled you to post?
D
  • D
    Dave
  • July 7, 2008
Cox Autotrader as it's now known recently combined print & online divisions into one corp entity. If any current ATC Reps are wondering why they revamped your compensation so drastically last year or if dealers are wondering why the rates jumped so drastically, just think of all the declining revenue from the print divisions (bleeding severely) now part of the mix, along with the double digit cancellation rates that ATC itself has experienced the past year or so. Someone had to pay and that someone is you, dealers & sales reps.
F
  • F
    Former Autotrader Publishing Rep
  • July 8, 2008
Dave is right but the bleeding in the print side was created by ATC. All of the online specials they created were designed to kill the print side. If that wasn't the idea, then someone didn't think things through, but that was pretty common.
They also can't stand the thought of running things beyond their 4 walls.

What prompted me to post I guess was I stumbled on the blog and saw a lot of the same assumptions about advertising being made. It was the first chance I have had to try and correct some thinking of some of the posters. For some strange reason I still hate to see you guys not make as much money as you can. I frankly shouldn't give a damn, but I have done this for too long I guess.

Someone needs to write a book on how not to run a business. ATC=Cox Auto Trader or How to take an industry leader and turn it into a solid 5th place.


A
  • A
    Alpha Dog
  • July 30, 2008
Trouble in Toyland???? They just axed a large capital building project, guess Cox doesn't want to float the debt in this economy, could impact their $13 billion in annualized revenues.

http://www.ajc.com/business/content/business/stories/2008/07/28/autotrader_headquarters.html
S
I think a lot of the autotrader value comes in not what the price is, but rather how many other dealerships in your area are using them and how effectively. Examples would be if you are the only MOPAR dealership using trader in 50 miles then it really pays off. However if there are 15 dealerships in 50 using it then you will probably not get good value out of the product. Also make sure that you are putting good descriptions and pictures up. I have found that the more up front and more descriptive you are the better the number and number of quality responses.-Steven Isakson
S
I forget to post above that the pricing can be good if you can get the blitz pricing. I was able to lock in 3 years of premium listings with 50 spotlights for $2800/month. I thought it was a good price at the time and I have sold 6 vehicles this month of Autotrader as compared to six total leads the month before.
M
GREAT TOPIC... As a former employee of Landmark which once owned Dominion Enterprises, which once owned 1/2 of AutoTrader.com and which once owned my former company Trader Publishing. As a Regional Sales Manager for AutoExtra.com from 2004-2005 in its 1st year launch I learned a lot about rate increases and bottom dollar budgets. What sold web advertising back then was market/web trends and demographics. Usually from a company who no one ever heard of and data that was atleast 1-2 years old. Our knowledge of online advertising has dramatically increased since then.

Now I sit on the dealer side where its my budget to control our advertising. I have realized that the reps from AT.com have become savy to our co-op funds and even started a department to adhear to its regulations.

As I sit here scratching my head about AT.com and the Cars.com and the AutoExtra.com's and the Automart.coms and all of these 3rd party websites. I find 1 thing in common, (SEARCH ENGINES). So before stroking that signature on that new fancy price increase they are trying to sell you. Instead invest that money in your own SEO program that directly impacts YOUR website not theirs. We are paying AT.com thousands of dollars a month so that they can build their online presence.

Another fact with Trader is that the AT Publishing reps didnt want to sell the new AutoTrader.com back when it first launched, it was taking away from their print business and risking relationships. So AT.com decided to separate on their own and ever since has been doing its best to move Trader Publishing Print out of the dealerships. Though they will never acknowledge my opinion here I once was a underpaid print and online rep. I saw it happen. They dont care about the dealerships ROI they just want to push the envelope year over year, but most of the problems is on us as a dealer because we get sold on all of these little ad-ons that the reps sell. Just focus on the PRIMARY reason you are listing your inventory online and realize that shoppers / customers are educating themselves on how to get around the gliter the websites put out and get right down to the product.
D
  • D
  • November 11, 2008
I just found this link from WARD, Cox is offer Autotrader.com for sale????
AT claim that their rev. hit 650M, and up 23% from last year. Why Cox want to dump it???
D
  • D
  • November 11, 2008
You can read this article at

http://wardsdealer.com/latest/autotrader_market_off_081111/
S
  • S
    Simply outreageous Stupidity
  • December 2, 2008
A set of ear plugs, a tinfoil hat and rose colored glasses are given to every management person at Autotrader.com.

Here is a tip: private sellers get a better deal than the dealers do. ;)
D
  • D
    DSMM
  • December 12, 2008
I can't wait to see how many millions they spend on their annual Las Vegas sales conference. In Jan 2008 they went all out, I think the bill was 1.7 million. I think the AIG party planning committee has moved over to ATC!!!
J
DSMM - Funny!

Simply outrageous Stupidity - Hmmm I wonder what that would like like?
I
  • I
    Interested
  • January 6, 2009
Wow, this is a great fourm and suggested reading for all involved. I have been in print and online media for the automotive industry for more years than I care to express. Your comments are all correct although, a few of the reps reporting their experiances with AT and ATC sound a bit more like sour grapes than appropriate. Senior management at most companies can be at times misunderstood but yes, they are concerned with shareholder value, afterall that is their main job description.

Dealers have a difficult task in driving new sales in todays economy versus any other time in thier history. Additionally, their marketing dollars are stretched to the limits. Today however, the dealer is aforded many more choices for advertising than ever before. The 800 pound gorilla i.e. Newspapers of the past have given way to Radio, than Television, targeted print, i.e Auto Trader the internt and of course ATC.

One post suggested investment in their own web page, smart! it's easier to control content and manage inventory and yes, it requires some attention by a dedicated staff member. Invest the time! ATC is also a viable and valuable tool assuming you understand how to use it properly. My pappy always said, "don't keep all of your eggs in one basket" well, he did'nt say it that way but I got the point. Set a marketing budget and stick with it. Use multiple channels of marketing and run reasonable and knowing ROI's on every source. Even sources with a lower ROI are viable to a point. In classic fasion, GM's and Sales Managers skip the homework necessary to make these decisions are more drawn to the sales pitch by a good ad rep. I say this with the upmost respect for those reading these posts, I would classify you as the exception to this generalization.

In time however, history always repeats itself and the 800 pound gorilla of today will be replaced by something more affordable and with better results tomorrow. Who knows, it maybe here today.... Keep looking!

I wish all of you, current and past ATC/ATP reps and of course, the dealers who depend on marketing solutions not classified advertising, the best of luck in 2009
T
  • T
    Trader No More
  • January 7, 2009
Bye Bye Auto Trader…

I used to work for the company, and was very shocked (well, sort of) from recent events.

So I found some information online, have been in contact with a lot of old co-workers, one of whom made it to the national cut, and will transition to AutoTrader.com.

As you’ll see in this article in the first link, they will be closing ALL AutoMart and AutoExtra publications in all markets, and shifting to strictly online. While the article STATES that they will be keeping all Auto Trader and Truck Trader Magazines that are currently running, still running, one of the survivors indicated on yesterday’s conference call, with Ian MacDonald, the Vice President of Sales Ops, in not so direct terms, that the Auto and Truck Trader titles will be eventually out too—that they are shifting them to strictly private party ads, but because that will shrink the books dramatically, and lack substantial content, it will give them their out to do away with them altogether. The only reason they are leaving them for now, is due to distribution/rack agreements with Dominion Enterprises/Landmark Media Enterprises. The second link indicates a pending lawsuit between the two companies, due to this whole mess.

The rep also said that Ian indicated that all reps coming over from AutoTrader/AutoMart will all be HEAVILY bonused on whatever business they can bring from where they were, onto the AutoTrader.com side.

Furthermore, according to the grapevine, the apparent reason for the final doing-away with the print components, is due to the fact that in recent months, when AutoTrader.com/Cox Auto Trader was put up for sale and then taken off, was because they were contacted contacted by big companies like Yahoo, Google, as well as some other large companies, with POSSIBLE interest, but no one was interested in the print division. By doing away with that division now, it will make them a better product overall to sell to either company, or to any other high bidder.

There’s also speculation that they will group together any and all print debts under the Cox Auto Trader/Auto Mart division (which of course includes AutoMart.com and AutoExtra.com), separate AutoTrader.com out into its own completely separate entity more-so than it is now, and file bankruptcy, leaving only AutoTrader.com remaining, and leaving an entity with little-to-no debt—prime to put to market.

This in itself would obviously mean bye-bye AutoMart.com and AutoExtra.com(which was already known), and would make sense, as with the cancellation of their print products, their databases would shrink IMMENSELY, with no more basic feeds from print. And who would sell it? The print reps who sold for them before are gone by January 23rd. And the reps going to AutoTrader.com (only 140 or so out of like 1400 sales reps), are being bonused to take business AWAY from the other units, AutoMart/AutoTrader/AutoExtra.

For example, the majority of Auto Mart listings in my area come from the book, as their online penetration is MUCH weaker than their print penetration. The listings now in our area will be a joke…

The links below:

http://hamptonroads.com/2009/01/cox-auto-trader-close-norfolk-office

http://hamptonroads.com/2009/01/landmark-sues-over-dispute-cox-about-publications

For dealers who are getting tired of the on-going Trader Publishing saga (separating Auto’s and Commercial Trucks), the Cox Auto Trader saga (Auto Trader versus AutoMart versus AutoTrader.com), and the continued, unreasonable price increases, my advice is simple:

Look to your LOCAL forms of classified advertising…they are market-based, they have their own brands and reputations, hopefully have been around for a while, and in turn, have business models that will keep them strong and in play for a long time to come, without succumbing to corporate greed.

Good luck to all! (Dealers and Auto Trader and Auto Mart victims.)
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    Steven
  • February 23, 2009
I heard the AutoTrader is in trouble right now, buying out their competition. I heard on the local radio station in Edmonton here that a new site is evolving and i've been looking at it's progress and it is growing each day. www.canadasautos.ca is the website.
L
Last year we did a test with a local website and organic SEO only. We drove more traffic to the website than AutoTrader did and at $2600 per month. The funny thing was the AutoTrader rep tried to take credit for the traffic, but we had our stats to prove otherwise.
C
Yeah the Auto Trader is a bunch of greedy bastar**. Mhy friend who owns a dealership contacted them to advertise before my website came up and they would not leave him alone for advertising on the magazine. He finally hung up cause they would not stop.

Auto Trader sucks.
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    skip dillard
  • May 15, 2009
If the "Former ATC SalesRep" offended you...so be it. Your type should be used to it. YOU offend every INTELLIGENT person that walks into your showroom. 10 yrs from now you will all be playing the "Carmax" game with all car sales--new and used. No more sending the sheep "TO THE BOX". Much more civilized process--you will still send your kids to Ivy League schools if you can still buy them in. Oh...but by then