By on January 7, 2008

portfolio_subaru.jpgKelley Blue Book is one of the good guys; the organization that led the way towards pricing transparency for consumers. So it's no surprise that their Western Sales Manager Jay Campbell thinks car dealers' websites would benefit from some user generated content. Writing for Dealer Marketing Magazine, Jay uses the term CGC (Consumer Generated Content) while making his case for e-Glasnost. "Today, consumers turn to auto enthusiast sites, online forums and message boards, question and answer sites, and blogs to post their feelings. Imagine how large and untapped this opportunity is for your dealer Website?" The misplaced question mark tells the tale; the idea that car dealers would open themselves up to potentially negative comments from the great unwashed requires a leap of imagination that Evil Knieval wouldn't have attempted in his [fall into the] heyday. Although Jay's heart is in the right place (gold star from TTAC), I felt compelled to call him and see if he lives anywhere near planet Earth. 

[Apologies for the low audio levels.]

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18 Comments on “KBB: Car Dealers’ Websites Need CGC… Good Luck with That...”

  • avatar

    If you’re a dealer, why would you allow CGC? Where’s the upside? Reality is that most folks think car dealers are crooks, just slightly above lawyers, and slightly below, well, used car salesmen. With that in mind, it would be stupid for them to do this.

    Maybe an independent minded, unbiased 3rd party site with the initials TTAC might decide to start this up as a way of dipping the proverbial toe in untested waters. Just a thought.

    People could contribute their experiences for buying, leasing, or just taking a test drive.

  • avatar

    jkross22 :

    Maybe an independent minded, unbiased 3rd party site with the initials TTAC might decide to start this up as a way of dipping the proverbial toe in untested waters. Just a thought.

    No brand extensions for TTAC.

  • avatar

    @jkross22 – I think that’s the point. No one trusts a dealer, but if they allowed (unedited) comments on a forum, people would begin to trust them. Then when you’re trying to compete for the sale, people will go to the guy they trust. I know I’ve driven farther to go to a dealer that I trusted more, I’m sure others would too.

  • avatar

    I think CRM is important for dealers. Its a matter of making customers interested in a dealer and not a manufacturer. And its gonna happen, given the consolidation actions of Autonation and others.

    1. Multiple brands = recommend a different brand but buy from the same dealer
    2. Customer complaints = instant customer service and honest dialog (that does happen)
    3. Service department woes = make them all happy and more will come. This is HUGE because service departments make up a large chunk of their profits.
    4. Targeted ads: sell ads relevant to the forum page or subject matter. If someone is recommending a Jetta, the dealer puts an ad for a great deal on one.

    The fact is that its gonna happen. As soon as someone does what Mr. Campbell says, they will have a competitive advantage.

    Its the same principle of WalMart, one stop shopping. We all know well that turned out.

  • avatar

    It’s unfortunately a terrible idea. There are just too many idiots out there who would ruin the site and destroy any value it had.

  • avatar

    I think the downside is probably potentially greater than the benefits.

    I keep imagining a scenario not unlike what happened when Chevy allowed CGC for their Tahoe, only applied to a local dealer.

  • avatar

    Author’s last comment reads: “Although Jay’s heart is in the right place (gold star from TTAC), I felt compelled to call him and see if he lives anywhere near planet Earth”

    Forgive me for pointing out the obvious…. but Mr. Campbell doesn’t live on planet earth.

    On Planet Earth, dealers do mini deals for 50 bucks. On Planet Earth, dealers don’t know CGC from CPC, but will buy whatever keeps the DMV away. On Planet Earth, a dealer will pay top dollar for a ‘lead’.

    Mr. Campbell doesn’t live on planet earth. He lives in a digital world. A world where we are all connected, a world where we can opt in to a collaborative opinion…… the very same world that is causing dealerships to go out of business simply because they don’t want to sell what the consumer wants to buy.

    Agree or Disagree? While you make up your mind….. the consumer has already spoken, and the dealers who dominate thier PMA are already there with them.

  • avatar

    Landcrusher: if RF and FW can keep TTAC’s international readership civil, a local/regional dealer can do the same.

    I’ve been moderating forums since 1999, its not that hard, especially when you consider that forums mature and become (somewhat) self-sufficient over time.

    So yeah, I still don’t buy into this “ain’t never gonna happen” mentality. One dealer’s gonna get it and start raking in the money from word of mouth, multiple brands under one roof, and decent customer service in the service department.

  • avatar

    This could really work and it’s coming weather the deealers want it or not. It would also be a good way to weed out those corrupt dealers that riddle the nation, conform or die. Look at how many retail things are now bought online with reviews and forums right on the same website, electronics come to mind.

    Plus eBay is already a decent example of this already in action. Plenty of dealers already sell on eBay and the feedback and seller point system gives a good idea of how this would function. Sure there will still be bad apple customers just like you get on every website, even this one, but you can usually pick them out a mile away.

  • avatar

    Excellent topic!

    As a consumer I would feel a sense of advantage if the manufacturer obtains CGC, including information on dealerships.

  • avatar


    As soon as a dealer starts to moderate the forum, it’s value is lost. Personally, I think forums should be moderated, and that makes this forum a lot better than most I have seen. OTOH, who cares about a dealer website where the dealer is the moderater?

    Are you going to trust that it accurately reflects anything?

    Also, as a member of an aircraft type owners group, I saw some people get really illogical about what they expected the manufacturers or dealers do in the name of customer service.

    So on the one hand, I don’t care to parse through an unmoderated forum, and on the other, I don’t care about one where the dealer is paying for a moderator.

    I will stick to TTAC. Anyone can build a Yahoo group for a local club as well. A dealer’s site is just a waste of bits IMO.

  • avatar

    Landcrusher has a great point. Dealers are already as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Do you really think they’re going to allow posts criticizing their establishment, suggesting better dealerships across town, etc.? It’s far too easy to subtly edit or delete posts to further your agenda and you’ve got to be crazy to trust that dealerships won’t do just that. I agree that the forums would have to be moderated, but who do you trust to do it?

  • avatar

    Jerome Jerenovich

    Agree or Disagree? While you make up your mind….. the consumer has already spoken, and the dealers who dominate thier PMA are already there with them.

    Forgive my ignorance. What does ‘PMA’ mean?



  • avatar

    Landcrusher: yes, please don’t leave TTAC for a dealer forum. Use both. Speaking of, if you think people will treat a dealer forum worse than TTAC or The Temple of Vtec, I beg to differ. The haters are everywhere.

    The forum can and should be moderated by the dealer for that reason. And the forum rules should be posted in plain sight: badmouth the dealer if you must, but don’t use profanity, allow the dealer to resolve the situation, don’t make it personal to anyone on the forum.

    So I still think this is a viable idea for average car shoppers, if there’s a dealership smart enough to build long-term relationships with their customers, not the Bill Heard’s of the world. Yeah, that’s a big if.

    Short term thinking, this is a bad idea. Problem is, everyone from dealers to stockholders in the car biz think this way. And look where its got them.

    Long term, this is a competitive advantage. Not to mention that the costs of starting/running a forum are pretty small for the types of dealers who’ll benefit from it.

  • avatar

    Excellent interview. There are only two kinds of businesses regarding the internet. The quick and the dead.

    I have been involved with the internet for years and spoke on the subject business internet integration nationally. I am still amazed at what people don’t know about its impact on their own company and industry. But that”s why I’m in business.

    Purchasing a car is open warfare and a guerilla operation. Is there any other business transaction (legitimate) that is acknowledged by all parties concerned as a knife fight?

    Because of the internet the tables have turned. Especially for the domestics. You wind up with your foot on their throat and negotiate how much blood you going to leave them with. And if they don’t like it there are plenty of other dealerships who would gladly bleed a little more than the next guy.

    I believe 75% or more of the sale takes place with out the assistance of any human. Internet savvy consumers don’t rely on a salesman with dubious motives for information when there is so much to be had online. Armed with the straight snot from TTAC, Edmunds TMV pricing and information gleaned from forums, EBay etc, they are an old school dealership’s worst nightmare.

    Let the carnage begin.

  • avatar


    I am not sure you really know the depths of stupidity the car dealers deal with. It’s part of the reason that intelligent people hate the places – they assume you are an idiot when you walk in.

    We will see if anyone can pull this off. Perhaps someone knows of a site that is a good example? Surely someone has tried this?

  • avatar

    I don’t think the dealers understand the Internet. I remember a recent case where a guy wrote about his terrible VW dealer experience in Atlanta on his website/blog. The dealer filed lawsuits against the customer, and filed a restraining order against the guy (because he vented how pissed off he was with his VW dealer). VW America didn’t have the guts to tell the dealer that he went too far.

    The thing was, the dealer screwed the guy over, and he was mad. The dealer owner read the guys rants on the web, panicked, and starting siking his lawyers on this customer. Of course lawyers know no restraints and filed every criminal and civil complaint against the customer.

    The point is, dealers don’t know how to take criticism. They are in no way ready for the no-holds-barred style of public comment that they would be exposed to on their site. The temptation to be heavy-handed in deleting comments would be too great a temptation for them.

  • avatar

    dealers shows monopoly in the market,they thought that only they are the top.


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