Opinions & Advice

The winds of change are among us, enter in…the Game Changers.

The Internet is the ultimate Game Changer, we’ve seen it completely alter the course of entire industries (just ask an old school travel agent or securities broker). Luckily, the auto industry has repelled being swallowed whole.

Let’s talk about auto retailers that are busting the mold and trying to offer the shopper a fresh new "shopping game". The game is still alive and well, consumers still need and want to smell, feel and touch but they are hungry for a “new way” to buy.

  • Who dares to be different?
  • Who among us is hard at work breaking the (perception) of the auto sales business model?

Allow me to offer up some examples to start this off:

1. Auction Direct USA
Three stores; NY, GA, FL and growing like a weed. Institutionally funded with over 400 vehicles for sale

  1. Auction Direct USA Game Changer Claim to Fame?
  2. On Site Auctions with open reserve prices. Unsold units at $399 over reserve.
  3. No negotiation.
  4. In store Web shopping stations to shop competition (great closing tool IMO).
  5. Non commission sales (flats?).
  6. Killer pre-qualifying process (the finest bar none)
  7. Open feeling sales floor, No desking, No offices.
  8. 3 day, 300 mile exchange
  9. RSS Inventory feeds

Lots of hype "only $400 over reserve", but it successfully hits several favorite "hates" of shoppers (one price-no negotiating, open, no rooms, shopping stations, etc). I haven’t been there but I bet that they don’t let a soul into the inventory lot to browse without coming through the showroom 1st.  If you look at the career opportunities area, they really key on the BDC team.

2. City Auto
Located in Memphis, Tennessee with over a 1,000 vehicles for sale

  • City Auto’s Game Changer Claim to Fame?
  • Results 1st: Auto Dealer Monthly’s 2007 Independent Retailer of the Year and #1 in U.S. Internet Sales for 2007!
  • City Auto is a mall made of an Army of self employed sales reps

The salesmen actually own their own vehicles. That is why the contact information is different for each vehicle listed on cityauto.com

It’s a strange setup, looks just like a shopping mall. Small players rent space from the house.  From the consumers side,  I see how exciting it would be to buy from the owner. No "go ask the boss" routine.  I’d bet the phone pitches from the owners are personal and excellent. Also, the boss/sales rep gives the shopper the trade-in.  I just don’t know how they can keep each other from cannibalizing themselves. Or… maybe that’s why they sell so many! (great party story, pitting 2 owners against themselves, all the while, mr. shopper sits tight). IMO, if the “House” can keep the peace and keep its customer service reputation clean, I’d call City Auto model a GENUINE game changer.

Give it a look, post your Game Changers.

Article written by Joe Pistell
CEO of new-traffic.com

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
"Game Changers" is right. It's these forms of outside-the-box thinking that will separate the players in auto sales.

I am a little familiar with AuctionDirectUSA from an SEO point of view. Their tactics have been strong for a few months now.

CityAuto rings a bell, but I didn't find them on my watchlist. They're on it now.

Regardless, these are the types of concepts that people are looking for, whether they realize it now or not. The Internet (rather, the people using it) is fickle and people have a short attention span. It is so important to find gems like these, innovate them, localize them, and turn them into money-makers as soon as possible.

Great post, Joe. I'll be calling you today.
thnx JD, looking forward to your call.

<b>Another "Game Changer": L2</b>

Brian Hoecht brought out <a href="https://www.l2.com/" rel="nofollow">Lithia Motors L2.com </a>

What makes <b>L2</b> different?
-Shopping Cart purchase.
-One price, no negotiating
-One trade-in price, no negotiating.

My Take:
Love the clean design and layout and the intelligent "shop by payment" system, but, thats not a Game Changer. L2 has taken dead aim at the car shoppers dis-like of the Car Shopping Game and is trying to "turn on the light" to help show that it's playing a NEW GAME.

Want Proof? Take a look at <a href="https://www.l2.com/index.cfm?action=about&subaction=Apples2Apples" rel="nofollow">L2's Beware the 4 Square</a>.

IMO, customers are GRINDERS. They are TOUGH NEGOTIATORS. Lay downs are a rare breed these days. Collectively, customers want a simple pricing model, but, just watch them negotiate hard if things don't go their way.

Brian's been pounding the table telling us all that shoping cart systems to sell cars is coming! L2's model is confirmation that he's not alone! Maybe add in some "GetAbby" technology to make it even less personal! hahaha...

Ahem... Sorry, I'm still old school on this, folks like to touch, feel, smell to motivate them to "pull the trigger & take the plunge".

Hey! <b>I think I can make this shopping cart thing fly!</b>
If you had a clearance area on your site and it had a "dynamic" price where price dropped for 1 hour (when scheduled i.e. midnite sale). Hmmmm... the Shopping Cart system is alive and well! (to collect deposits) <i>Hey! I like this "dynamic" price idea!!</i>

Damn.. add yet another idea to my "to do" list!

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  • October 1, 2007
I've only briefly looked at both auctiondirectusa.com and l2.com, but how are they different from Carmax? Lots of inventory, better pricing structure, buy trades... seems similar, or am I missing something?

Cityauto is interesting, but I would have to wonder about a customer feeling like chum in the water. Obviously Cityauto is doing well, but I am curious about the actual experience.
I don't think I defined the term "Game Changer" very well. Let me try again.

The "game" describes the interaction between dealership and shopper, it's called buying a car. We all know this <b>game is HATED by shoppers.</b>

Savvy retailers are going to attempt to satisfy the shoppers and offer up a <b>new game by trying to kill the old one</b>.

And... You're right, CarMax is an example of a game changer!

Differences of "The Game" at auctiondirectusa.com vs. carmax.
==On Site Auctions with open reserve prices. Offers to sell units accepted at $399 over reserve.
==In store Web shopping stations to shop competition (great closing tool IMO).

Give the video on the <a href="http://www.auctiondirectusa.com" rel="nofollow">Auction Direct Front Page</a>. a good review. <b>They take control of the shopper!</b> Upon arrival, BEFORE they look at a single vehicle, they offer up a killer "dog and pony" show of what and why they are so different. They follow that with a pre-purchace interview (can you say sales script?) to help box the customer in. To justify their "best price" position, they offer shopping stations to assist in closing.

Speaking from a position of decades of experience, that's a pretty damn intelligent, well coreographed dog and pony show. I am not awed, but I am impressed.

re: CityAuto.com
Chum in the water? Dear gosh EJ, CityAuto has to offer the most exciting and rewarding "old school" shopping experience on the planet.

Let's say you're a web shopper. You're after a Used Avalanche and you've landed on this <a href="http://www.cityauto.com/inventory/Details.asp?Stock=217210&Category=2&MY=&Make=Chevrolet&Model=&Price=&Miles=&SalesID=&Search=Chevrolet&Sort=PriceD&page=&source=" rel="nofollow">05 Avalanhe at CityAuto</a>. I'll ask you a question EJ, as you shop around on the phone, you tell me <b>who's going to gve you the best phone presentation, The OWNER at City Auto, or, the BitchCircle salesrep with 150 units in stock and whining about who's turn it is? </b> Game, Set, Match.

Oh, it gets better!
We all know Sales reps "work a deal" and the buyers "work" the reps. It's easy to see the CityAuto.com shopping experience is a game changer, but in a wierd kind of way. I can see the buyers EASILY forming personal relationships with the owners (old school) PLUS I can see shrewd buyers working the owners against each other (more old school).

So, CityAuto is Web2.0.
Huh!??!! Well, kinda 2.0, but give me a second to explain. Web 2.0 defines a platform that's enhanced by it's participants. The platfom wont exist without its "Content providers". CityAuto's 48 owners kow their inventory intimately and can make a deal right there ad then. No back and forth, no used car manager to blame. It's real Old School content in a totally new way.

If ever there was a marketshare stealing machine better built than City Auto, I'd like to see it.

DealerRefresh Strikes again! 2 Powerful &quot;Retail Game Changers&quot; I featured in this 2007 Blog post take 1st and 2nd place in Auto Dealer Monthly&#039;s &quot;Top 50 Independent Retailers of 2010&quot; 12,000 Used Cars sold!


<a href="http://autodealermonthly.epubxpress.com/link/ADM/2010/jul/22?s=0" rel="nofollow">http://autodealermonthly.epubxpress.com/link/ADM/...</a>
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    Jeff Kershner
  • July 6, 2010
Joe, quite hiding that crystal ball! Congrats to these 2 TOP Independent dealers. Great examples!!
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    Eric Miltsch
  • July 8, 2010
Joe - gotta hand it to you for this original post. Looking back at your original breakdown of our process &amp; model, you really nailed the USP&#039;s.

What&#039;s really neat, from my perspective, is how none of those items you mentioned have changed. They all ring true to this day - we&#039;d like to think that some of them have improved a bit.

The only real change is simply how many different places the story can be distributed today. Social media wasn&#039;t the headline of every blog post; SEO wasn&#039;t the secret sauce - I don&#039;t even think there was a Kool-aide available to drink yet...bottom line: something different, positive &amp; unique can in fact work. Nobody thought we&#039;d exist 90 days beyond the date of Jeff&#039;s original post.

Thanks again for the original post mention Joe; if nothing else, it created a great relationship - plenty of valuable lessons learned from it all.
@Jeff -

Posted my previous comment so late last night, didn&#039;t realize I left your name out @ the beginning &amp; end...meant to include you with Joe&#039; mention...

Thanks again man...

You posted that so late you forgot you gave all the creds to Jeff and not me (ahemm... the author ;-) ) I think Jeff (or Alex) went in to your reply this am and swapped out &quot;Jeff&quot; and added &quot;Joe&quot;.

Eric, you&#039;re forgiven, Social Media workers have no clock, you&#039;re on call, 24/7.
@Joe -

Too funny...

I see the original author credit now at the end of the post...(honestly didn&#039;t see that way back in &#039;07 on the original DR design)

Cheers to you.