Dealership Marketing

AutoUSA – Something isn’t kosher!

Back in August of 2006, I was mystery shopping on Edmunds. I wanted to see what type of responses I would get if I requested a price quote for a Mercedes-Benz E350. I of course figured I would get my own lead (since I purchase my New Car lead from AutoUSA), but was hoping that I would get a response from one of my competitors as well.

I did receive my own lead and rightfully so. I called up my AutoUSA rep and explained that it was a test lead and they had no problem replacing it with another valid lead.

Then in Feburary of 07, something weird happened and  AutoUSA sold me the same lead again..same name, same car, everything exact. Keep in mind, I NEVER used the same name to shop for another vehicle within that time frame. At first I thought it was a glitch with my eLead CRM. But when I logged into my AutoUSA account and there is was! 

I found this to be a little disturbing and was very disappointed in AutoUSA since I usually get my best leads from them. Receiving my own lead after mystery shopping was expected. Buying the exact lead again made me question.

Monday morning 4/29/2007 I log into my CRM only to find Maire Zahn, the same lead in there AGAIN! Same name, same vehicle, SAME LEAD! Let me point out again, I DID NOT USE this name to mystery shop. It would have been Sunday and I was doing yard work all day so there is no way I used my Sunday to mystery shop dealers.

Basically I had been SOLD the exact same customer lead 2 times over from AutoUSA. I’ve heard this happens quite often from someone that is a veteran in the 3rd party lead business. Apparently it’s common practice for many Lead vendors to resell leads to dealers after a period of time of the initial request. Their thought is; since many dealers do not execute the right amount of follow-up and in order to uphold their services and reputation, it’s a good idea to resell the leads after a period of time. Maybe they run the customer leads up against a DMV database of customers that have bought vehicles in the last 90 days?

Anyways, I again called my AutoUSA Rep to point out the fact that this was the second time. For some reason, he quickly got on the defense and said (and I quote) " That’s part of the business". WOW, I was not expecting that type of response. I was only calling to point out what happened and maybe who they are buying this lead from is reselling to them. Whatever the case maybe, something isn’t kosher here.

I’m not accusing AutoUSA of anything specific here and I’m really surprised I’m having this issue with AutoUSA. Like I mentioned before, I usually get my best leads from them. BUT I am disappointed that a quality lead provider is participating in such possible tactics.


Have you experienced this? What’s your feedback?

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
This sounds like a problem for i-LeadControl? From the article you posted not too long ago, I didn't catch if i-LeadControl can look at leads that were generated over 30 days ago. (ie: in this case) AND no, I don't work for them, I am just trying to relate one post to another.

Jeff, do you think that you would have caught this duplicate if you didn't generate the lead?

In my past life, I was the eCommerce Director of an 18 store dealer group. I would like to think that my ISMs would have caught such a duplicate, but I am guessing that it would have never been flagged for a credit (and we probably would have assumed that the same customer came back through another website & would have been charged for it.)

It's disappointing that such activity happens. I know the big lead providers are pretty good about giving credits, but they usually expected me to pay for the same information twice if the inquires are more than 30 days apart.

-JoE Drosen
National Sales Director, CarSpot

Thanks for the plug, unintentional as it may be...

Yes, i-LeadControl does look at leads over 30 days old, you simply plug in the desired date range and voila! However, most lead providers will only give you credit for leads that duplicate within a 30 day time frame as you mentioned.

Like most who read this blog I am also discouraged by the ability of the lead providers to take advantage. I hope i-LeadControl can do it's part to help out...

Best regards to all,

Steve Williams

Thanks for the heads-up Jeff. I've got my own test lead out there now.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • May 10, 2007
Sorry for the delay on commenting back. I was in NY for a few days. I see that Joe clarified that you can expand your lead search in i-leadcontrol.

Even when using a program like i-leadcontrol, the duplicates come through to your CRM. So yes, I would have caught this duplicate no matter who it was from.

You said "and we probably would have assumed that the same customer came back through another website & would have been charged for it." That's my point..this was a lead that I can say I'm 100% confident that the customer was NOT on another site shopping.

Since this posting, a big wig from has called me to let me know that they are indeed trying to get to the bottom of this mishap. We had a nice conversation and I commend them on their in effort to getting to the bottom this. Maybe we'll hear from them soon on DealerRefresh.

We searched our system for all leads with the Marie Zahn name and found four. Three of them went to your dealership and were submitted on these dates: 10/13/2006, 2/22/2007, and 4/29/2007.

All three of these leads were individually entered on the Yahoo! Autos website. Yahoo! Autos has confirmed that they never resend leads—each is uniquely entered by users. Since Yahoo! sends leads from their website only, they confirmed that these leads were typed in on their “get a free price quote” lead form which has dealers listed for selection. Whoever typed in these leads had to specifically select your dealership in order for us to send you the lead. Since the leads are several months apart, we did not filter them out as duplicates.

The fourth lead was for a different make and came from the PriceQuotes website on 11/13/2006.

AutoUSA is very sensitive about websites creating duplicate leads and selling them to us. We have stringent filters to catch duplicates within a certain timeframe. We only work with the highest integrity websites and we will not buy any leads from websites that automatically create duplicate leads.

We do understand that Internet customers can go to several websites, including the dealer’s website, and request the same vehicle from the same dealership. We can only filter out the leads that come through our system. Dealer CRM’s or CRM ad-on software may be needed for dealers to filter out duplicate leads that come from different lead providers.

If you or your readers have ideas on how we can improve our duplicate filtering, we would love to hear about them either as comments on your blog or emailed directly to us at [email protected].

Jeff, I want to make sure that the incident you are referencing in this blog stays with direct focus on the company you are detailing, AutoUSA. This, I can state for a fact, is not an industry wide standard practice.

As you know jeff, I am the President of (DealerLinkUSA). We are a PPC/SEO/SEM marketing firm. Our leads are generated in multiple ways through various search media. We, without exception, refuse to charge for leads on a per lead basis. We will generate as many quality leads as possible through a monthly budget program.

I may be naive, but I'd like to think that the situation you incurred with AutoUSA is somewhat isolated. I can't help but think, they would be in all kinds of hot water if there was any trend like this to be uncovered. Hopefully they will correct their error and it will be the last issue you have with them.

This is a good demonstration of how and why blogging is important.

The thread brings to mind the <a href="" rel="nofollow">Engadget/Kryptonite incident</a> where Engadget syndicated a thread about Kryptonite's locks capable of being hacked by a Bic pen. Kryptonite did not catch wind of the thread until after it was too late, and the result for Kryptonite was a <a href="" rel="nofollow">class-action lawsuit</a>.

Phil, I am encouraged to see your quick action here to address the concern. I think it says a lot for your organization and as threads like this become more regular in the industry, companies that are quick to respond like this will retain their competitive edge.
Phil said "All three of these leads were individually entered on the Yahoo! Autos website."

Can you confirm or deny that, Jeff?
I agree, Ryan, that blogging is a great way to inject accountability into situations where it can help everyone involved. What worries me, though, is a response like Phil's (but not necessarily Phil's) that discloses customer information.

Phil's comment is helping this situation, and I'm not accusing him of anything here. However, when a business gets called out and has to defend their practices privacy sometimes gets thrown out the window.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • May 15, 2007
<i>Phil said "All three of these leads were individually entered on the Yahoo! Autos website."

"Can you confirm or deny that, Jeff?"</i>

I used this alias profile 1 time and 1 time only to shop for a Mercedes-Benz. That was the lead that I received on 10/13/2006. A truly appreciate the fact that Phil DuPree took the time to comment and also took his time to look into this particular situation. I doubt most vendors would have the guts to comment on a situation like this.

However, there is still something wrong here.

<b>Fact:</b> I used the Alias 1 time and only 1 time to shop for a Mercedes-Benz
<b>Fact:</b> I received the same lead 2 more times over a 3 month period
<b>Fact:</b> I received it each time from AutoUSA

Phil says that Yahoo! Autos confirmed that they never resend lead and each is uniquely entered by users.

I'm very confident that I submitted the lead on Edmunds and not Yahoo but I can not confirm that 100%. My initial testing was not intended for this purpose, therefore I didn't track this information. If I didn't manually submit these leads, then who did? Could Yahoo! be fibbing? Did someone hijack my alias information (using the exact address, phone number and vehicle of interest each time consistently)?

Something still isn't kosher. The next time I decide to do this, I will be sure to track my request and response from beginning to end.
I'm sure you won't be the only one testing this time around. Great story.
  • L
    Lao Shi
  • June 7, 2007

Most of the 3rd party lead providers state they will not charge for duplicate leads as well as the OEM's I work with.

We are lucky that we use salespoint as our LMT and they have a great solution on ferreting out duplicate leads.

I audit this monthly and send the duplicate leads back to the provider for full credit.

I have noticed that the majority of the leads originate from the OEM sites consistently over the course of the months business. This is month after month. So the OEM leads are still the most valuable.

Some of the web site company's state they will increase the site activity and increase the sales however they usually want the dealer to funnel all the leads including the OEM leads which they are paying $15-20.00 or more per lead into their LMT and this will distort the numbers and skews the reports.

Dealers if they wish to track true; the leads, they need to keep the OEM leads separate so these company's cannot use the leads they generate to bloat their figures. Some of these company's charge $5-6,000 per month and the dealer is also paying $15-20.00 per lead, plus many duplicates so the cost could increase 3-fold. Then they wonder why they are losing money. Some of these dealers are getting the royal fleece.

Jeff has got a great site (no cookie cutter here) and I will bet the website cost is not costing $5- 6,000.00 plus per month.