By on July 21, 2016

Cadillac Man, Robin Williams

Imagine that you owned a successful business. For many of you reading this today (including me), you don’t have to imagine, because you’ve done it. If you owned anything from a lemonade stand to a global airline, you’d have a pretty good idea of your costs and profits. You’d know which advertising sources worked best for your business. You’d strive to know where your customers came from. You’d have a system for hiring and training employees.

You’d do all of this and more, because you must have all of your ducks lined up in pretty little rows to be successful.

Well, that is unless you’re a car dealer. In that case, you may have no idea about any part of how your business works and still make money hand over fist.

Don’t believe me? Over the next several weeks, I’ll prove it to you. Today we’ll start with a simple concept that befuddles most dealers: online merchandising.

Since the dawn of time — otherwise known as about 18 years ago — there has been a successful formula for merchandising vehicles online, and it’s been repeated so often that it’s become a mantra in the automotive retail business.

Photos.

Comments.

Pricing.

I think the acronym of PCP was introduced to make most car dealers feel right at home (Google it, youngsters). It’s a simple formula for online merchandising success, whether it’s on the dealer’s own website or on a third-party site such as Autotrader or Cars.com. Take enough photos of the car (including new cars) for the customer to become visually interested in it. Write comments that tell the story of each car, but keep it simple. Price your vehicles according to what the market will bear.

Easy enough, right? Well, you’d think so.

Unfortunately, even some of the largest and most successful dealers in the country struggle with these concepts. Every time I write a post about the failings of dealerships, somebody in the comments pops up with a statement like, “I’m sure these guys have it down to a science. The best dealers use merchandising and pricing tools, blah, blah, blah.”

Sure, the best ones do use those tools. But after visiting over 2,000 dealers in the last four years, I’ll tell you the percentage of dealers that are correctly merchandising inventory online is less than one percent.

I’ve sat down face-to-face with dealers and discussed inventories of well over a hundred cars, one car at a time, and helped them write comments about every single one. I’ve sat with dealers and watched as they went to open their pricing tools — software that costs them thousands of dollars per month — and realized that they didn’t know what their passwords were because they’ve never logged into the site. I’ve pulled out my trusty iPhone and snapped 27 photos of each car on a dealer’s lot over the course of a Saturday because they were “too busy” to do it.

So what should they be doing? Let’s break it down.

Photos. This one seems simple, but it isn’t. Third-party websites offer packages to dealers that range from 3 to 99 available photos per car, with most of them being somewhere in the 27-32 range. There’s been some discussion of “photo fatigue” in the business lately, meaning that some consultants believe that any more than 9 photos can be too many. While there may be some truth to that, the general concept is simple: take photos of everything that the customer wants to see. If it’s a used car, be transparent and take photos of any blemishes or faults that the car might have. Use a consistent background in every photo. If you can hang a banner with your dealership’s name behind the car, even better. Don’t put your dealer’s phone number on the banner, though, because then you won’t be able to track the incoming phone calls by source anymore (we’ll discuss this more in future installments).

The biggest struggle I faced was getting customers to understand that taking photos of new cars was just as important as taking photos of used cars. In fact, research shows that using a stock photo of a car is more damaging than having no photos at all. But nearly all dealers have problems getting their inventories 100-percent photographed. Some of this is for valid reasons — “It’s still on the truck,” or, “We just bought it at auction” — but most of the time it’s either pure laziness or pound-foolishness on the part of the dealer. There are companies that will gladly take photos of every car on a dealer’s lot for $25 a car, which is typically less than what it costs a dealer to own a car for one single, solitary day, but many would rather have it sitting there unphotographed than suck it up and pay the fee.

Comments. On Autotrader, you have 25 words that will show up on the description of your car on the Search Results Page. Make them relevant. Don’t simply do what’s called a VIN explosion, which is a listing of the features of the car based on the Vehicle Identification Number. Tell the customer what’s unique and different about this particular car, and do it without all the CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!!!! And, for God’s sake, leave out, “Joe Schmo Ford is a family owned business that’s been supporting the community since 1956. We take pride in our customer service and making sure that every customer is treated fairly.” There’s thirty words that mean absolutely nothing. Every dealership provides great service. They’re all family owned (even the ones who sold out to Sonic Automotive 10 years ago). Nobody gives a damn. Tell me about the car. 

Pricing. It’s so simple, yet so difficult for these dealers to get this one right. Price the car for what the market will bear from day one. It constantly amazes me that dealers will intentionally over-price a car for the first 30 days, just to see if it will sell for an astronomical price. This never, ever works — except for the one time that it did four years ago and the dealer made four grand, so now they keep thinking that they’ll hit the jackpot again. You don’t have to have the cheapest car on the market, but you do have to be within a 5 percent range of it. Otherwise, customers just keep on scrolling.

All of this matters for one reason: go to the third-party website of your choice and search for a 2012 Toyota Camry within 100 miles of your home zip code. For good measure, throw in a 2012 Honda Accord, too, since you’re a savvy cross-shopper. When the 300+ results show up, you’ll start to understand that customers are looking for ways to narrow down their choices, not expand them. In other words, any failing that a dealer may have in any of the above categories gives customers a reason to exclude that car from their search process. Dealers should be looking for reasons to be included, not excluded.

Okay, that’s it for today. If you have any other questions about how a dealership works, send them my way at [email protected] and I’ll do my best to address them for you in future installments. Happy shopping!

[Image: Cadillac Man by Orion Pictures]

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174 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: Dealers Are the Worst Businessmen, Part One...”


  • avatar

    A lot of salesmen aren’t very good. I’ve run into many who didn’t know the product, understand the product or – even after training – didn’t have conviction enough to sell the product.

    This carries over to online sales because many sales online don’t have passionate sellers/dealers who understand the best ways to capture the beauty of the product in order to make buyers want the product.

    Nowadays, Dealers have a room with online sales associates who manage social media and online sales calls. Many of them don’t know the product completely either and aren’t certain about inventory.

    Someone needs to make a more up-to-date website/app that allows dealers to easily list a product, its features, photos and current status (sold, in selling, available, etc).

    • 0 avatar

      BTSR? Is that you?

      • 0 avatar
        THE_F0nz

        I have been a ball-buster to BTSR recently, and this post dropped by jaw.

        Thank you BTSR for your input on this thread. This is the kind of value-added conversation I loved about this site for so long!

        I agree that the sales force I have interacted with in the past 5 years has been poor at technical conversations. I purchased my car from the first sales person I spoke to who could answer my car-nerd questions and actually be honest about the price. To me that intelligence was crucial.

        • 0 avatar
          threeer

          When I briefly toyed with the idea of selling cars after a very, very successful interaction one Sunday afternoon at the local Honda lot, I was flat-out told by the manager of the dealership that actual product knowledge meant just about diddly to be a good salesman. That kind of crushed my dream as I have an immense pride of my automotive knowledge and passion.

          Agree with much of what has been said as far as advertising goes. It amazes me when an ad just simply burps up the standard features list. I can go to Edmunds or something equivalent to find that. Tell me specifically about the car on your lot. And for the love of all that is Holy, spellcheck! How hard can it be to spell “manual” or “brakes?”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Come on down to Big Jim’s Used Cars!

            2009 HYUNDAY SONOTA

            Engine: GAS
            Transmission: MANUEL
            Options: POWER BREAKS, P0WER LUCKS, POWER WINDOZS, SONROOF
            Style: 4 DORS

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            You can tell it’s a manuel transmission because it has an extra peddle.

          • 0 avatar
            threeer

            28-Cars…funny, as my first name is Jim! Yikes! I sometimes cruise the ads just to find mistakes like those mentioned. And sadly (comically?) they are all-to-easy to find. Never mind when somebody (in caps) proclaims…V6, and then the engine shot clearly shows an inline. My favorite one spotted today was an ad for a BMW E30 (I’m currently fixated on finding one, even though I can’t afford it). This particular one came with the “famous E30 engine!” And which one, exactly, would that be? Sheesh…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “And which one, exactly, would that be?”

            The one you can only get from Big Jim’s Auto Sales.

            @JimC2

            After I typed it I imagined a tiny little man named Manuel switching the gears for me.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Unos dos tres cuatro!

            Manuel likes shifting his own gears.

            (edit: ducking autocorrect quarto… maybe it’s a Freudian slip and Manuel drives an Audi)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Manuel probably drives the bus.

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            as a parts guy and a brand fanboy, I’ve had any number of new salesmen tell me I ought to be selling cars due to my extensive knowledge of the product.

            My response:

            1) no…I’m not a salesman. product knowledge means dick when you don’t have the Always Be Closing mindset, and

            2) if you are still here in six months, we’ll revisit the topic.

            been here eleven years…..never have had the follow up.

          • 0 avatar
            scottcom36

            The E30 engine has thirty cylinders arranged in an “E” shaped layout.

          • 0 avatar
            SirRaoulDuke

            That’s the exact reason I will not sell cars. They don’t sell cars. They sell these things called payments. I could sell the shit out of cars. Payments? Might as well be a telemarketer.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I was going to say something but I didn’t want to be accused of a personal attack. All these points are spot on and NO CAPS or HELLCAT mentioned!

        I just happened to see the original post before it was edited to this too. It was pure BTSR. I’m glad it was changed for the better.

        • 0 avatar
          THE_F0nz

          Oh come on, you didn’t have to tell me about the original version. I was enjoying my ignorance…

          I get to hold on to a bit of hope though, that is still important.

      • 0 avatar
        montgom626

        When the writer wrote “after visiting over 2,000 dealers in the last four years, ” My BS detector went on full alert. That is 500 visits in 312 days. Assume that the he visits when the dealer is open. Or 2000 visits in four years. I am calling the author out on this claim. And if the author can’t get this simple fact correct, what else is baloney sausage?

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          Bark responds to this concept below, but yeah…it’s totally possible to deal with a handful of dealers a day, if that’s what your business is.

          hell, just two a day, would likely be 600+ a year.

          considering some dealers are open 14+ hours a day, and some states allow them to be open 7 days a week, a really dedicated Bark could probably hit a 1000 dealers a year.

          The string noted: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/07/barks-bites-dealers-worst-businessmen/#comment-8104034

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Bark…long time reader, first-time commenter. As someone who looks at these sites every day, it is quite frustrating When my customers ask me to find a car with specific options, I want to be able to filter through the cars that match and the cars that don’t.

        On the pricing end, I will say that there are two trends that folks should understand. The first trend mostly applies to luxury cars, but some lightly used mainstream models as well. If you see a car that is priced well below the market average, for example, a CPO 2015 3-series for 32k when most are selling for 34 don’t get all pissy when the dealer turns down your offer of 29. There is simply not that much markup. If you came in with an offer of $30,500 they would probably work with you. That dealer knows their car is priced to sell and is cheaper than their competition. They’ve done their homework and you have too. Finding the best lightly used deal is more about value in the marketplace rather than focusing on the discount off the asking price

        On the low end of the price scale, I’ve seen dealers price cars well below market like a 2014 Nissan Sentra for $9000 when it should sell for $12000 but then they bury fine print in their ad that the advertised price includes a “$2000 loyalty rebate for customers that have bought from the same dealer in the last 30 days.” Of course, they do this to get a sucker in the door. Always call ahead and request an out the door in writing. If they refuse, shop elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Sales are tough. My FIL is a good salesman… I couldn’t imagine him doing anything else. But he also demonstrates why so many dealerships can’t get their heads out of their asses. Humility and deference are keys to running a successful business, but also seem to be at odds with traits I see in most car salesmen.

      BTW- I am subbed to and liking your channel. Keep it up.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I agree 100%. Some buy into the mantra “a good salesman can sell anything” crap. I’ve walked out of dealerships because they did not know anything important about what I was looking at or were focused on “upsell” or dumping the purple metallic lot poison pickup in the back lot.
      On line sucks too.
      I can attest that going onto a dealer web page and seeing “stock” photo’s or incorrect options means I’ll just close my browser and go elsewhere. The other one that kills it for me is “call dealer for price/details”.
      WTF?
      I went online to narrow my choices down without getting stuck talking to a clueless sales staff member.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m just glad the six rules hasn’t silenced one of our greatest voices. Long live BTSR!

  • avatar
    319583076

    In my experience, most going concerns make money in spite of what they’re doing and not because of what they’re doing. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is real and it’s purview is ubiquitous.

    BTW – 2,000/(4*365) = 1.3

    You’ve visited an average of 1.3 dealers per day, 7 days a week, for 4 straight years?

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    You know what I want to see in online car listings? The things above, yes, but also *A USEFUL DESCRIPTION OF OPTION PACKAGES*. The vast majority of dealers and other sites spew a huge mash of text including every possible item the vehicle has (carpeting! floor mats! interior dome light! trunk release! gas cap!) making it absolutely impossible to find out whether the car you’re looking at has the upgraded audio or LED headlights (which you can’t see from the photos because they’re only 250 pixels wide and were shot with a Kodak DC100).

    For the love of God, people, learn to enumerate option packages sanely!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Totally agree about the options. Finding a 4Runner with KDSS was super difficult with how poorly most dealers do their websites. My brother is looking for a late model 3 series and it is a complete nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      +1000

      I don’t think dealers even know what they have.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      This, this, THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      GRAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! So annoying, and then you contact them and they still screw up the options. Audi is absolutely abysmal, all independents are poor to bad, BMW in Canada is brilliant, it’s all their on their freakin web site.

      We bought a X3 instead of the Q5 because of this, we were shopping CPO and Audi was just horrible, beyond your wildest dreams horrible.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike N.

      What I hate is the inconsistency of what is listed – page after page of standard features, maybe they’ll list the option package it has, maybe they’ll list an individual feature from the package. So if I’m looking for car X but it must have option package Y, searching becomes a real PITA.

      You can look up the VINs on BMWs and Mercedes, for example, to find out all the option codes a particular car comes with, but you shouldn’t have to.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        When we bought our CPO MKZ a few months back, the dealer produced a printout of the original sticker. That tells me that there’s some database somewhere (most likely just for Ford dealers) to which all franchise dealers have access. Nothing beats that for knowing what you are looking at.

        In an ideal world, given a VIN for a used car, one would be able to not only look up the sticker, but check it online against desired options right in the search engine.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Ford has a window sticker site which is great. It actually shows you what options the car was built with. Other brands, not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      HeyILikemySaturnOK

      THIS!!! Don’t just list the standards, clarify the packages if included.

      Also, look forward to reading more in this series.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Yep, a huge list of standard features and yet the things that are optional aren’t listed one way or another. This was my largest annoyance last time I was shopping.

      As bad as the pictures were, they were often more useful at figuring out options on a car than the actual text. I learned to recognize the automatic climate control option by the extra button pictured on the dash, since the feature was often omitted in the text.

      And for the love of God, a “manual transmission” in this day and age means a vehicle with a human-operated clutch pedal, not a vehicle with flappy paddles! Seriously!

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “The vast majority of dealers and other sites spew a huge mash of text including every possible item the vehicle has ”

      Drove me absolutely bat-$hit crazy when I was car shopping this spring!

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      What, you don’t know the contents of OPTION GROUP 302A by heart?

      Do you even WANT this car?

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      Besides useful descriptions of the option packages and RELEVANT standard equipment. It would be nice if you could get a single page summary printout of the vehicle, its equipment and price.

      My elderly father, who is not a computer user, has it in his mind that his Traverse is too small and he should get a Suburban or Yukon XL, and I’ve printed out summaries of individual vehicles from the local dealership. We narrowed things down to 7 vehicles and I didn’t print out everything, but I did print out between 7 and 11 pages on each vehicle listing optional equipment and what appeared to distinguish one vehicle from a different one. This should be a lot easier.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Agreed.
      They list all of the standard features to make it look like the thing is loaded.
      Yes, I already know that it comes with 4 tires, seats, and a drive train.

      WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?

  • avatar
    Incorgnito

    This is a great topic, I’m looking forward to the future installments.

    One thing I could never understand, is why some dealers would go through the hassle of actually taking and posting pictures and either A.) The pictures are a blurry mess that tell more about the dealership’s ineptitude than the car, or B.) The pictures clearly show a car that obviously does not line up with the textual description listed. If I see either, I instantly move on.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Picture fatigue is a thing when 20 of the 45+ pics are the 3/4 view from a different camera angle.

    If it’s new or new enough, I want to see pictures of the outside and inside, but I don’t need closeups of the window switches, cruise control buttons,etc. I know reading is hard, but if you list the packages and not just a VIN explosion, I can shop against that.

    If it’s used, I want the same thing, but show me the problem areas too.

    The VIN explosion might be the most annoying thing though. Really, it has a safety glass windshield? Wow, the times we live in.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I recently had to click through something like 10 pictures of the dash on a new 4Runner, with close-up photos of the various cubbies opened and closed. Not one photo of the cargo area to see if it had the (undesirable to me) third row package. I got the impression that the saleman or lot boy tasked with taking photos was just feeling lazy, and knowing he had to get 32 photos per car, just snapped 10+ from the air conditioned, comfortable driver’s seat, regardless of what the end product was or how it might help or not help with the sale of the truck.

      Another rather disingenuous move that I expect from Craigslist but has now filtered down to main line dealers is AVOIDING taking photos of rusty areas or significant blemishes. For used vehicles I now try to ask the salesman to take specific photos of areas I request (frame, rear quarter panels with doors opened) before I even commit to driving down to see the vehicle in person.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’ve walked on cars previously for rust lies, much less when pics don’t cover the affected area. Asking on the phone “Does it have rust?” and getting a “None!” response, only to turn up and see four inches of rust at the top of the tailgate.

        “Oh, I guess I didn’t notice that before.”

        And I guess I’m wasting my time with a liar.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        I’ve unfortunately been responsible for worse than that. I used to photograph used cars (a service provided by the online listing company I worked for), and the most egregious example was a mid-90’s Integra sedan that was in reasonable condition (as far as nearly 90 year old Acuras go), and as it had the 5-speed, was rather tempting. At least until you get around to the passenger side, which looked like the car had been freshly t-boned. So naturally, all pictures of the thing were taken from the driver’s side.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “…to see if it had the (undesirable to me) third row package.”

        I think the trail, trail premium and trd pro 4Runners don’t have that option while the SR5 and limited do.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah I was looking at SR5 Premiums specifically. The quick way on the ’14s used to be running boards+ roof rack on an SR5 truck implied Premium package (I’m mostly after the moonroof, and somewhat the heated seats). But there’s a package that apparently consists of the roof rack, running boards, and the third row. My perfect truck would be a Trail Edition with just the moonroof as an add-on.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      I’ve come to rely on the 10 pics of the dashboard with every button viewable for one simple reason: The dealer-supplied option list is not trustworthy. The ad might say it has Cruise and A/C, I might have filtered the search by those options, but then when I click on the cheapest listing, I can look at the pictures and clearly see the blank where the cruise button should be, look at the HVAC controls and see the lack of an A/C setting.

      Every. Time.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        This right here. We were just shopping for a Hyundai Tuscon for my mom. Her one requirement was heated seats. They varied in being standard, or available by trim level by year for the price range she was looking at, so the only way I could tell was the actual picture of the buttons. The dealer ads were terrible at actually calling out the car as having the option too, I’d say only 40% who had it actually said it.

        In an area that has a decent winter, at least cold-wise, I would think butt-warmers would be a thing that any dealer would want to highlight in a used car.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “Creampuff only driven by a grandmother to church. This one won’t last long!!”

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      “Come on down to JIM JONES FORD LICOLN(sic) MERCURY EDSEL Mazda FIAT. You’ll really appreciate the pillow like ride and sharp handling of this 2002 KIA OPTIMA LX sdn base.”

      Usually also includes

      [email protected]@k! **FREE LIFETIME WARRANTY** **FREE OIL CHANGES&TIRES FOR LIFE**

      AT JIM JONES FMLLEF we value your and your family. COME ON SATURDAY FOR HOT DOGS AND BALLOONS!!!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “It’s so simple, yet so difficult for these dealers to get this one right. Price the car for what the market will bear from day one.”

    Car dealers want customers to focus on monthly payments, not on price. A customer who focuses on price will invariably pay less.

    And dealers count on the fact that some customers will willingly overpay if steered in that direction. If they discount everything immediately, then they are just negotiating against themselves. There is no single “market price” — the difference between the cheap buyer and the overpayer is the difference between barely earning a profit and hitting a home run.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Car dealers want customers to focus on monthly payments, not on price.”

      Yep. And it drives them nuts when you already have your own financing, even better when you have a blank check in your hand and a dollar number in your head. The thing is, I think there are a lot of people who do care about monthly payments- maybe because they’re not smart with money and they make bad decisions or maybe because their finances aren’t great at this point in their lives. But it’s the salesman’s job to figure out which kind of customer you are.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      An HP-12c is the ultimate offensive weapon and defensive countermeasure at the car dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I think he’s specifically discussing internet pricing. People on the internet are all price buyers, so there’s little to be gained by swinging for that home run. You can’t open a negotiation with someone who spends a fraction of a second dismissing your price in favor of someone else’s further down the screen.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The point is that dealers have traditionally thrived on opaqueness and dominating the customer.

        In contrast, everyone has figured out that the internet isn’t well suited for doing those things. Most dealers will resist changing that drastically; they’ll stick to what they know, or try to contain the internet business so that it doesn’t hurt the traditional business.

        The only way to make the internet work for them is to increase volume enough that it can make up for the lost margins. For most of them, that’s a lot tougher to do than it is to talk about.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Pch101 – well said and that is the sense I’ve always gotten when dealing.

          They don’t want to deal with you on the internet. They see internet as advertising to get you onto the car lot.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    One or two well known used car chains have a pretty good online inventory as part of their business model, among other good points. They seem to be successful too… imagine that!

  • avatar
    dwford

    All true. I was the internet guy at my dealership, so I had to take all the photos. My dealer was hell bent on getting the photos online, which was good, but made me take photos of cars that were not to be photographed on a regular basis. I’d take photos of cars with missing hubcaps (sometimes just reversing the photo of the good side instead of actually posting the missing hubcap online), with auction writing on them, not washed etc. They also didn’t have me write my own descriptions, the CRM we used would auto generate the description, I just adjusted the level of “cheese” I wanted it to be written with.

    The dealers that price their used inventory artificially high online don’t want the price comparison shoppers to come in anyway. Those dealers are most likely the ones who crack skulls and make $5k front end on each used car. Avoid them.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    Wow. You’re telling me that an industry that epitomizes crony capitalism with de jure and de facto barriers to entry are run by poor businessman? They must have taken a page out of GM’s playbook, if you can’t compete, go buy some politicians and get some protection from the consequences of your bad decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Cynicism aside, you’re a breath of fresh air. I don’t know much about selling cars to the general public. But I have sold my fair share of motorcycles and I care about cars / money which apparently puts me ahead of a considerable number of the professionals.

      So many people seem to care about the number of photographs, rather than photographing the vehicle in a way that might let a customer figure out what they’re looking at. Especially in cars with a wide range of option packages, I’d kill for better photos of cars’ front consoles. Hey Bargain Lot, I know you have a *loaded PRIUS GAS SAVER* but is it loaded because it has navigation? Or does it have the dynamic cruise control and heads up display?

      And the pricing structure is ludicrous with the carrying costs. I used to try to find cars that were just listed (usually at stupidly prices) and use the prospect of a quick flip to get them to give me a pretty fair price. No dice. Then they let the thing sit on the lot for 90 days and it goes back to auction or something.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    “In fact, research shows that using a stock photo of a car is more damaging than having no photos at all.”

    Bark – can you provide a source for this? I’m genuinely interested.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I can’t speak to the research, but I would interpret it as “you went through the trouble to find a stock photo to include, but you couldn’t take the tiniest bit more effort to snap at least one pic of the actual car? What are you hiding?”

      • 0 avatar
        wolfinator

        For me, this goes beyond cars. I see this all the time on Craigslist, from private party sellers of things like power tools.

        They’ll slap up the manufacturer’s stock photo of the tool along with ‘ALMOST KNEW RUNS GR8!!”

        I always scroll past those, it just smells like a sleazeball whose afraid to show a picture of what he really has.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      When looking at used cars, a stock photo–to me, anyway–immediately screams fraud.

      I can find my own stock photos. I don’t need a seller to post stock photos for me (and sometimes even try to pass them off as photos of the actual vehicle for sale).

      If I don’t already have a general idea of what a car looks like, I wouldn’t be shopping for that car in the first place.

      One of the worst aspects of stock photos is when the features shown in the photos don’t match the text description of the car! It’s hard to know what’s right when the photo shows 2 pedals but the description says manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      PartsUnknown – I’ll move on to another dealer if confronted by stock photo’s. The same can be said for generic spec sheets.

  • avatar

    I wasn’t ‘born and bred’ in the car business and I’m glad I wasn’t because I do things differently

    -60+ photos of every unit, including full walkaround with interior, tires, engine compartment, cargo/trunk, and any relevant features.
    -Full description with ACCURATE AND RELEVANT equipment highlighted for that specific unit.
    -Consistent pricing across all online marketing outlets (you’d be surprised how many DON’T do that).
    -CARFAX availability. I know its not the end-all-be-all, but it *IS* additional information. I’ll also show someone the same Insight Condition Report I look at if they really want to.

    I do more than my fair share of research into every car we offer. Of course, I’m inclined to being a car nerd and actually liking cars as opposed to liking BIG CA$$$$$$H, bimbos, and a steady supply of pills and cocaine like my old GM was. I feel it makes a difference.

    I’m quite frankly amazed that franchise dealers and even CARMAX do such a comparatively poor job than someone like me with a 35-40 car ‘dirt lot,’ what with all their co-op money and resources.

    And most of those dealers hire services that charge $10-15/car to come out, take twelve lousy photos half in the shade, half in direct sunlight, and VIN highlight cars with such compelling information like CAMRY 6A LTD AVAIL or 3-POINT SAFETY RESTRAINTS.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Are you the only guy at your dealer to do the online listings?

      • 0 avatar

        Yes. I have three full-time employees at the moment – myself, my detailer who also helps with sales, and a bookkeeper.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Ah, so it’s your lot? I didn’t think you were the owner.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Try his website, since it apparently changed it is having trouble loading. I got it to load once but then it bombed on the inventory page. Won’t load at all now in Chrome or in IE11.

            http://www.motorsportsflorida.com/

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Can confirm – does not load on Chrome. Just endless loading circle. Also tried in my old IE9, and it wouldn’t work there either.

            Brian you better call somebody!

          • 0 avatar

            I’m partners with a guy. Its mine in the sense that I’m there 24/7 it seems.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Your life is car!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            He’s the Cadillac Man! No wait, he’s more successful… Lexus Man!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I admire him doing his own business and putting in the effort! Plus he’s like 24.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks for the heads-up. Some technical issue with DCS. We’re back up now. Please feel free to apply for financing on the Aztek.

            P.S. I’m 31, but close enough. Average age of everyone I deal with is like 55.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You’re welcome. The Aztek is :D

            See if you can find a white 86+ 240 smashed in the rear, stuff like that used to come free in package deals back in the day. Yards up here won’t pay d!ck for wrecked cars but everybody wants $200 for one frickin’ fender.

            Additional: I kinda like that Lex CT thing for what it is, although the interior minus the dash/center console look incredibly cheaply made. What is road noise like?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Brian could you get me a line on a clean 4th gen 4Runner or GX470? Emphasis on clean and 1-2 owner, and 4wd is a must (shout out to Hummer :p) Tired of looking at otherwise decent trucks ruined by rusty frames up here.

          • 0 avatar

            gtemnykh,
            Yr, trim, color, options, mileage, price range?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Yr: not picky, but my “ideal” truck aesthetically is an 03-04 “Sport” 4Runner with the grey plastic bumpers in either V6 or V8 guise. In that lovely forest green or salsa red in a perfect world. Maybe up to $9-10k for a pristine low mile single owner truck of that early production run.

            like this:
            http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/670601177/overview/

            Newer 05-09 4th gens are good too, but don’t tickle my fancy quite the same. Up to $15k for a really nice later-year SR5 or Limited.

            I’d pony up $20k for a pristine 07-08ish GX with proof of timing belt done and functioning air suspension, any color other than tan works, but the dark blue is my favorite.

            As you can see, I’m all over the place, but the single crucial requirement is that it is a clean, maintained vehicle with no rust, no smelly or stained interiors, and absolutely no repaired accident damage. Everything else takes a back seat in my mind, including cloth vs leather interiors, V6 vs V8 (both are good motors IMO, a few early V6s had headgasket issues).

            Having said all that, I still pine for a clean Montero Limited with low miles…. one that hasn’t gone down the sad road of BHPH or third owner neglect.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            I got FlyBrian’s site to work. Nice layout. Too bad I’m 5,300 kilometers away ;)

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          Fylbrian,

          I like the site, but have a couple comments.

          First, I would stick with auto or manual for transmissions. The first car I clicked on was the 128i, and in the description it said 6-speed. While this is technically correct, more people tend to think manual when you call something an x-speed. I did notice it’s basically the only car where you don’t fully call out the transmission type though.

          Second, the ability to search by engine cylinder count, drive wheels (FWD, RWD, 4/AWD), or transmission type are nice – you could think about incorporating drop-down menus for sorting like that.

          I know it’s not a huge lot, but that makes a shopper’s visit to the site much easier.

          Otherwise, it has all the pertinent info and more photos than anyone could ever ask for. Fair pricing too IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Awesome, you have a Sportwagen (with plenty of good pictures) and actually called it a Sportwagen, not a Sportswagon. Nor did you list a Sportwagen that’s actually a Jetta sedan, as I recently experienced multiple times looking for TSX wagons on Cargurus.

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      I just checked out your website. It’s about perfect. Well-lit photos, good descriptions, I can tell you actually like cars. I would sell cars for you…99% of dealers, no way.

    • 0 avatar
      oleladycarnut

      Brian, I got on your site yesterday and my response to you is, “Wow! I wish every dealer’s site could be this fabulous.”

      Your photos are sharp. There is nothing more disheartening than to look at pictures that are blurry, or pictures that zoom in on a dusty, sticky center console. Where is the pride?

      Another part of your site that I find unique and helpful is the brochure write up. That is exactly the kind of information that I would want to know about the car. And, the writing is actually literate.

      But, as of this morning at 9 am Pacific Standard Time, the site isn’t loading again.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Oh one suggestion I had when I looked yesterday (at that Expedition which was killing me because 2WD.) An arrow photo clicker so you can scroll to and fro, and not have to click on individual pics.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I agree with you 1000% on pictures. If I’m browsing Cars.com (which has SUCKED for the past year or so- they need to fix that damn site) or Autotrader, I never click on an ad with stock photos. If I’m on Craigslist I never click on an ad without pics. For new cars, it’s not a big deal, but for anything used, good pictures are a must.

    And you never, ever see undercarriage pictures (can’t imagine why not…). I usually just keep looking if the Carfax shows the car was titled in a northern state.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      100% this. No stock photos!

      And it amazes me that people will try to sell something online without pictures and expect a response.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Especially stock photos of used cars. Sigh. Nobody wants to buy that 10 year old Taurus that you bothered to pay to list online and then provided one “stock photo” of the car from the brochure.

    • 0 avatar
      dr_outback

      I use cargurus.com because of their easy price comparisons.

      • 0 avatar
        SirRaoulDuke

        Cargurus is the bomb. That’s how I found the car I just bought. Funny though, the dealer used it against me when I negotiated on price; they pointed out they had by far the lowest price on that model and knew I knew that. And yes they did. But that’s OK because it just made the whole process smoother, we could both easily agree on what a great deal was without that usual back and forth “check with my manager” BS. I pretty much walked out the door a grand cheaper than anywhere else would have been because I knew the market value going in and I knew what the other dealer’s bottom line would have been after all the BS. Why not just bottom line it online to begin with? Save the asking price BS for the suckers who walk in the door without doing their due diligence, there’s plenty of them out there.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      When I was researching comparable cars before I sold my wife’s old 2000 Jetta TDI (when the car was 14 years old), I couldn’t believe how many cars were advertised with either no pictures, or 1-4 blurry pictures taken from 100′ away from the car. If there were any pictures that weren’t blurry, it was of a car that had a dirty interior and exterior. That’s not how you sell a car!

      I detailed that car, took about 15 good pictures, posted useful information about the car and priced it accurately and sold the thing in a day. That was a very good day and I made a lot of money by staying home from work to clean it.

      I don’t know why dealers and private sellers can’t figure out how to sell cars. It’s not a difficult formula. PCP!

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Brett…+10000 on paragraph #2. It amazes me at how quickly and easily I’ve been able to sell personal vehicles doing just that. Clean the car, take quality pictures, price it well (I take the “average of averages” price from about three to four different sources, then usually still undercut anybody’s comparable listing by a few dollars) and post information relevant to that specific car. Heck, when I sold my mom’s 2003 Corolla (back in 2013), I actually had the buyer offer me more than I was asking. Of course, might have helped that it was a one-owner, fully-loaded LE (leather, sunroof, etc…) with less than 10k/year on it that did the trick…:).

        But dealers play the numbers game, I suppose. Throw it out there and hope it sticks. Eventually, the vehicle will sell and less is more when it comes to effort expended to present the car in its best light.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If I’m on AutoTrader and you don’t have photos and pricing listed, I’m not even going to look at your $hit.

    My NUMBER 1 pet peeve: If it is a 3 row vehicle (van, minivan, SUV, CUV, wagon etc.) you’d better have a clear picture of the cargo room with the 3rd row in place! Yeah I may only use the rear seat occasionally (especially in a CUV/SUV) but I definitely want to know how much crap I’m going to have strapped to the roof rack (besides Dear Aunt Edna) when I go on a Family Vacation.

    Interestingly the one national dealership chain that I have noticed has started to take clear pictures of cargo space in 3 row vehicles is CarMax. Corporate must have sent out a memo or something.

    Number 2 Pet Peeve is not clearly listing the packages that the model is equipped with or the options it has. Is that Malibu a 1LT or a 2LT? The 2LT comes standard with the 2.0T engine, and guess what? The 2.0T is the only one I’m interested in.

    • 0 avatar
      missmySE-R

      100% agree on the confounding lack of clarity on options on the vehicle.

      Given that truecar and carsdirect clearly have databases which show all of the various option packages and configuration possibilities, it would seem like this information combined with a VIN number should be able to provide you with all of the data necessary to not only be able to search for make/model, but also specific option packages relevant to that vehicle.

      That said, I suspect most any dealership would much rather have you engage in some manner (email, call, visit) to find the information you’re looking for than simply have it show up on a webpage, so there may not be much incentive on the dealer side for this type of system.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        I sort of agree but it is madness, see my rant above.

        So a few months back I see a Q5 and it has a really messy options list, i ask the sales guy to send me a thorough list, instead he sends me what seems to be the basic coded packages but no clarity a spackages changed from year to year.

        So I flat out ask, does it have “parking assist”, he say yes. We go see it, w elike the car, we throw it in reverse annnnnnd .. nothing. i ask where the cameras are, he says no camera just beeps.

        I could have clipped him one, first i ask for the full list of options, he cannot do that, then i ask specifics and he still messes it up. OK I could have been clearer with my description but i did ask for a full line out to begin with.

        He got all pissy with me too, like i wasted him time.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Dan – why wouldn’t you just go look at a similar model in person somewhere (wrong color, drivetrain, or too high of mileage don’t matter if you are still in the research phase)? There is no way I’d even start firing up the classifieds search for a given vehicle if I thought the cargo area would be insufficient.

      I usually figure out exactly what models/trims/drivetrains are acceptable before I start searching out what to buy. I’m helping my brother find a new-to-him car. He test drove new versions of the same generation to narrow down what he wants and is now on the lookout for acceptable used specimens of the 2 acceptable models. Pretty easy to check every couple days until he finds one that fits his criteria.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’m annoyed they don’t put in the effort. Why bother to upload pics if you don’t know what you are doing in taking them? Why bother to pay for ad space online if you don’t bother to list the vehicle in enough detail for your customer to know if they want to darken your doorstep?

        I’ve sold (at various times) shoes, paint, hand and power tools – I knew 5 to 10 times more about my product than the average car salesman.

        That knowledge made it easier to Always Be Closing.

        • 0 avatar
          cimarron typeR

          I wish these autotrader,cars.com made a separate search query for “clutch pedal.” Now any car with steering wheel paddles is apparently a manual transmission.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            I like the way your mind works, but let’s not kid ourselves- there would be plenty of dummies, creating ads for their inventory, who would just check that box not even knowing what it means.

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      I bought a lightly used car this past weekend. I was very interested in a Ford Focus, but not one single dealer in this area knows the difference in a manual and a DCT. Are you freaking kidding me? After clicking 30 “manual” listings and seeing that God-awful DCT I just gave up on a Focus. Now how many people who don’t want a stick are not clicking ads because it says “manual”? They are just throwing money down the toilet with their internet advertising, IMO.

  • avatar
    missmySE-R

    I recall reading an article on autonews a while back that showed the average dealership in the US made a vast majority of its revenue on service, not car sales (new and used combined). So, as long as they have people coming in for cheap oil changes and can find things to fix while they’re in, they can probably survive with a sub-optimal used car sales experience.
    I suspect there’s also an inertia type thing at play here as well – the dealership is used to investing a certain amount of money into its used cars and the tactics described here would tend to result in a far faster turn rate, potentially also at lower per unit margins. If they don’t put any more into restocking their used car lot, these tactics only service to limit selection and lower profits.

  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    Setting the concept of online car advertising aside, I want to address the faulty premise you intimated in the introduction of this post: that big-time car dealers, like most other businesses, have to be focused on basic concepts like profit and loss.

    They don’t need that stuff, because what’s paramount to them is float.

    Big dealers, who live on floorplans, holdbacks, rebates, referrals, warranty credits, and credit lines, don’t have to make money on every deal like most of the rest of us.

    They live off the float. They survive by throwing a bunch of paper in the air on a full-time basis on the hope that eventually, enough revenue will land on their lot to stay in the game. It’s how dealers can lose money every month for a year and still keep the doors open. If the float is large enough, last year’s profits will cover it or next year’s will pick up the slack.

    Sometimes, of course, that’s taken to extremes. Like magically turning 70,000 vans discounted for fleet sales into luxury conversions headed for the Middle East. Or performing warranty service for five times the number of cars you’ve sold over the last 3 years. When you live off the float, sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

    But even in less fraudulent cases, the float is why big car dealers who seemed so prosperous just last week suddenly flame out in such spectacular fashion. It’s easy to dismiss a monthly balance sheet when you convince yourself that your float will let you make it up somewhere down the line.

  • avatar

    Please tell me you’re going to do a piece on email/CRM. All of my experiences have been awful and have included the following.

    – Getting duplicate auto-generated emails with the exact same subject/content
    – Emails going to spam
    – Salespeople not reading their emails! I sent an email regarding the payoff amount of the lease on my Dart and they sent an email asking when I wanted to come in and look at Dodge Darts (some of this might be a “sales tactic”, but I wouldn’t say it’s a good one)

    Having worked in E-Commerce for over a decade I can say their use of email and CRM is appalling. I’m pretty sure no one is paying attention to open rates, bounce rates or any automated rules that have been setup.

    I think if a dealer actually did things right they could do really well, but most just plain suck.

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    I bought a low-miles total creampuff Prelude Si 4WS back at the turn of the millenium. The dealer thoroughly and completely surprised me after the test drive by telling me, and I’m not making this up:

    “Keep ‘er overnight, call me in the morning and we’ll work out a deal!”

    So I drove all over Austin, visited a gearhead friend who weighed in on the car. The next day I was signing the papers on what turned out to be the best car I’ve ever owned. That dealer is still a friend of mine.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nice buy.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      I had more than one dealer offer us that when we went looking for our latest ride. We took the ’14 Escape home overnight and bought it the next day. I’m sure the dealer knew exactly what he was doing in allowing us that.

    • 0 avatar
      duncanator

      I’ve heard that there are places in the country where they give you the keys and let you take the car for as long as you want. Where I live, the salesmen comes with you and take you on a short loop. It really sucks, but I know why they do it. I don’t think I could deal with a dealership just giving me the keys and telling me to bring it back when I’m finished, but I’ve been told by family that it happens where they live.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    I got a letter from a big area dealer inviting me to trade up the other day. I’ve been thinking about getting a different ride so I visited their site. The pictures were terrible for everything they had!

    4 or 5 pics of a dirty exterior, in what appeared to be the parking lot at a farm auction, a few more close-ups of dusty knobs and buttons, followed by a few more advertising what a swell dealership they are.

    I went there for a recall once and it’s a nice place; beautiful service shop, showroom and lounge. Guess I should’ve driven out back.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Agree on getting rid of the exclamations points!!!111eleventyone

    And pictures? Is it really necessary to post pictures of the whole steering wheel, plus the left and right sides of the steering wheel?

    How about that pop-up “how can I help you” every time you go to a new page on the dealer’s web sites? I have to wait for it to load and then close it each time I click on to a new page. The few times I’ve tried asking a question there, it takes forever for the person at the call centre in India to get through to the dealership and actually get the question answered.

    • 0 avatar

      Those chat clients are so badly managed—it’s not somebody in India, but normally a receptionist who knows nothing about the inventory. It’s supposed to go dark if nobody’s monitoring it, but most dealers don’t know how to change that setting.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I hate those “chat” pop ups. I have to laugh at the attractiveness of the people in the photo’s. I’ve looked up the sales staff on line and see row on row of sweaty balding 55 year old lot lizards.

        • 0 avatar
          duncanator

          Man, you got that right. It’s like the commercials when you see a pleasant looking call center and nicely dressed staff. Those people NEVER work there.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Most dealers I’ve come across sell used cars like any other commodity.

    Which is relevant, especially when after their life cycle is completed, the Chinese melt them down and make them into NEW commodities.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    There’s no excuse for any results from a drop down selection on cars.com for an important feature (like transmission or exterior color) to be “unknown.”

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    I just recently went through the buying process (last week). I bought a Ram 2500. I have to say, it was the smoothest and easiest buying process I’ve been through in years. While the website didn’t have pics on all inventory, it WAS possible to pull up the window sticker… a great way to confirm option packages. They even listed vehicles that were “in transit”. There were no high-pressure tactics… no bait & switch. Negotiations lasted all of 15-20 miutes. I feel like I got a pretty good deal… $1800 BELOW the TrueCar exceptional price (about $7k below invoice). I was in and out of the financing department in less than 20 minutes. Most of my waiting was for the detailing department to prep the truck. I was pleasantly surprised.

  • avatar
    makuribu

    I live in a part of the world where the dealers think it’s the 1970s. They assume I will buy from somebody in this city because I am too lazy/stupid to look elsewhere, and the drive to another town would take too long. They don’t know about the telephone, let alone the internet.

    Manufacturer web sites are pretty terrible, too.
    I don’t want to wait while Flash loads, hangs, demands an update, inserts malware, and then crashes.
    A few JPGs are fine until I want to see a 3D animation. Sites that block me because I am using a device that doesn’t support Flash will alienate me and many many users. Don’t use Flash.
    Mouse over drop down menus that block what I was trying to see because I moved the mouse are really really irritating.
    If you ask for my postal code in Canada, the first three characters will get you enough info to tell you where my nearest dealer is. If I type K1A, I live in Ottawa. If I type K7L, I am in Kingston, and M5W means I live near the CN tower in Toronto. Don’t make me type the entire code. It’s a waste of time for “just looking” visits.
    (The same is true in the US. If I type 805 as the first three digits of my Zip code, you can give me dealers near Boulder, Colorado. 121 will put me in New York. That tells you the state taxes you need to add to the price. That’s all you need to know, for now.)

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Part of this is because dealers leave there salespeople to service their online business or have one dedicated person who doesn’t even get compensated relative to sales. Salespeople make money on commission so they are incentivized to hide inventory from other salespeople and keep it overpriced till they themselves cut a deal with the customer.

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    Customers know more about the car/truck they’re buying before even looking at a dealer’s website or physically going to a dealer…so what’s the point?

    It comes down to pricing and what dealership gives the best reach-around during the purchase process. Its that simple. We call it the KY technique.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “so what’s the point?” The point is the customer is trying to sort through way too much useless information to find the car they want. Help the customer find and buy the car faster and the business makes more money. Normal people don’t want “the best reach-around during the purchase process”, they just want to buy the car for a good price and leave.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Please, for the love of Jesus, check the right transmission box!

    Hint: if it doesn’t have 3 pedals, it’s not a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I’ve been helping someone look for a used vehicle (“helping” as in being a foil to fend off hard-sell tactics.) we’ve run into more than a few places where the salesman we encountered fit the stereotype of the “used car salesman.” You know, the oddly colored suit, the gold watch and chain(s,) the greasy, slicked back hair, and the tan (real or not.)

    does the business just attract people like this, or is there something about this persona which (they think) actually helps them sell cars?

  • avatar

    My favorite is when they use stock text that completely doesn’t match the vehicle, like “This Fisker is a reliable vehicle because generations of customers have trusted Fisker cars”

    Also, for stock photos – can’t they at least find a stock photo that’s the same color/configuration of the car they are trying to sell, instead of a picture of, say, a white standard cab 2wd F150 in a listing for a green, 4-door, 4wd F150?

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    After sorting through cars looking for a certain vehicle with a manual transmission for a few weeks, I instead just sorted by color and model type once – and the photos of the car that popped up showed me a car with a manual transmission, even though it had been listed by the dealer as having an automatic. I drove up there (out of state) and bought it the next day, before anyone else figured it out.

  • avatar
    clkimmel

    This is from a local dealers ad:

    This SUV is nicely equipped with features such as 7 YEAR / 100,000 MILE WARRANTY, CLEAN CARFAX…NO ACCIDENTS!, FORD CERTIFIED, LEATHER, NEW VIRGINIA STATE INSPECTION, ONE OWNER, RECENT TRADE IN,

  • avatar
    Maymar

    What astounded me was the dealers (even higher end stores) who were completely oblivious to what they had in inventory, and how its reconditioning was going. I’ve seen cars sit dirty or damaged for weeks on end. I once had a BMW dealer keep asking me to shoot the same dirty generic white 3-Series with the same university sticker in the back window (couldn’t even be bothered to remove that) on each visit for something like four consecutive weeks. Because, yeah, that was going to make a huge difference.

    • 0 avatar
      duncanator

      Last fall, I sat in what the dealership said was a new X3, tan interior. The carpets were so dirty that it looked like it had been used for a year then put on the lot. It was amazing that they didn’t care enough to make it look nice.

  • avatar
    clkimmel

    This is another one of my favorite sayings in car ads

    “Previous owner purchased it brand new! “

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    Spot on Bark. As you know, I work in a similar capacity to what you did at Autotrader. Our Advisors drill our dealers on this every day and it’s still a rarity despite the supposed “Digital Revolution” of automotive sales. I’m sending this article to my team as required reading.

  • avatar
    readallover

    My personal favorites are: `call for price`or `please inquire`. The dealer might as well have said: `we think you are stupid`.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    I hate it when a dealer uses the same price for everything (i.e. $xx,488). To me it says “we just throw any old price up and think it’s clever if it ends in 488”.

  • avatar
    George B

    I bought my last car at the dealer that made it easiest to 1) figure out if the they had the car I wanted in stock and 2) figure out if the dealer prices were in the ballpark. Most of the buying process was done in 20 minutes because both the salesman and I had the information reasonably well organized before I walked into the dealership. What ruined the experience was the aggressive attempt by the finance salesperson to sell dealer service plans and other stuff I didn’t want.

    I completely agree that car descriptions should indicate what options are included that make that specific car unique. As others have said, pictures are valuable because they tend to be more accurate than the text description.

  • avatar
    bubbajet

    Perfect on all counts. I’m sure future installments will deal with some of my other pet peeves:

    You gotta know the product. Before buying my last car, I read the owner’s manual before test driving it. The salesman’s knowledge was…perfunctory at best and wrong on many counts. This was NOT a new model. I eventually bought from this guy but I felt bad making him look dumb. Nice leg up though.

    All sales people need to know how to drive a standard. When one salesman had someone else bring the car around and told me that he couldn’t do it because he couldn’t drive the car… it was a nice test drive but he lost my business. He also knew less than the salesman mentioned above.

    Adding dealer-installed options on every car, including the famous “underbody protection.” Sorry. Not going to pay for it although I’ll give you $5 or 10 for the product you sprayed. Maybe. I actually had a Harley stealership tell me they couldn’t sell me a bike that hadn’t even left the factory yet without an extra $2K in dealer installed stuff because they had already slated the bike for those parts. Credit for cojones though!

  • avatar
    everybodyhatesscott

    If you’re making money hand over fist, you’re not a bad businessman. Don’t mistake the forest for the trees

    • 0 avatar

      This is true I have worked for people that track nothing but still make surprising profits and places that track everything and do just about everything right and still has very low profits. I will say your likely better off working for the later but as an owner the former must be fun. I will mention my wifes business I help run seems to be about the same profit wise now that we kind of know what we are doing as it did back when we didn’t, which is kind of surprising. Although I believe a lot of it is additional competition that didn’t exist before.

      • 0 avatar
        everybodyhatesscott

        It’s a trade-off. Is it really worth the extra 5% of revenue if it doesn’t help your margin at all? Heck, I’m an accountant, It’s nice to know where everything comes from but if it doesn’t help profitability, what’s the point?

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        @mopar4wd

        I think in a lot of cases, that’s more than a coincidence. If you’re a business with a high profit margin and making money hand over fist, is there really much to gain by OCD’ing on tracking expenses to the last nickel? Life is good.

        But if you operate in a highly competitive market on a razor-thin profit margin, it can mean the difference between life and death.

  • avatar
    duncanator

    I was just looking at a dealer site yesterday and there were many listings with no price and picture. To me, if you don’t have a picture, you shouldn’t list it. It’s like the old days (90’s) of web development where they would put an under construction gif on an unfinished page. We’ve since realized that it is better to not have the page at all than to announce that you’re not ready. To me, it is simply laziness and I won’t bother to drive to a dealership to look at a vehicle if I can’t see it online first.
    Oh, and don’t make me call for a price because I’m online so I don’t have to talk to you.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Is this surprising to anyone here?

    I mean, think about it, car sales is not exactly a business anyone gets into – let alone stays in – out of aspiration. Most end up there out of desperation. And if you accidentally discover you’re really good at sales, you’re going to quickly move on to something with far better commission potential. So of course the average salesman you encounter is some wannabe Herb Tarlek he doesn’t car what the online ads look like.

    And like any franchised business, owning a new car dealership probably isn’t going to attract some innovative entrepreneur looking to optimize the latest technology. No, these places are going to be run by somebody looking to make a quick, easy buck. At best, they’re owned by a conglomerate or an ex ballplayer who wants to diversify their interests and doesn’t want to hurt their reputation by being a shameless, borderline criminal sleaze ball.

    To top it all off, the average consumer is far from an enthusiast; they have no idea what they’re buying nor do they really care. Besides, even the most informed gearheads on this site are just as susceptible to the oldest hard sell tactics in the book. How many of you settled for a car you didn’t really want or agreed to some stupid warranty item you swore you wouldn’t fall for? I know I have more than once. How many stories have been posted here about some old widow or mentally challenged person being taken for thousands of dollars by some shameless douche canoe dealership? There’s an endless supply of easy marks out there.

    So where exactly is the incentive for anybody in this industry to become less awful?

  • avatar
    geozinger

    So much ground to cover here. I can only relate to my experiences selling cars from the early 90’s for a year. I was the “car guy” on the lot, but no one could care less. For the other salesmen, the cars on the lot were just another unit to move, whether it was a car, a Kirby vacuum cleaner or a washing machine. A couple of the long time sales people knew things about the car and trucks they sold, but ask them some basic motorhead stuff and they were lost. My “car guy” status only ever helped me sell about a half dozen cars. (My monthly goal was 30 cars.)

    It makes sense, though. The overwhelming majority of the folks seeking a car aren’t car people. A vehicle to most of them is just another expensive necessity that they want to purchase for the least amount of money and time. If you worked in an industry that doesn’t really reward you for in-depth knowledge of every possible variation of a widget that exists, would you bother? I wouldn’t.

    I laugh when I read about someone who walked away from a salesperson because they didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of whatever car they were looking at that day. People did that to me, too. No big thing, I’m on to the next one. It really doesn’t affect the salesperson that much. People need cars, someone else will buy from him.

    On the sales side, it sucks when you’re at the end of the month, your “up” is some clown type who wants to know what factory in Japan produced the Tercel you’re showing (but will never buy) and the next “up” walks in right after him and buys a new Land Cruiser for full price AND the paint protection package. Been there, done that.

    In the intervening 25 years, we as consumers, and they as retailers have such incredibly powerful tools on both sides. I would hazard a guess that both groups are guilty of not deploying them well.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “For the other salesmen, the cars on the lot were just another unit to move, whether it was a car, a Kirby vacuum cleaner or a washing machine.”

      Paul Rizzo was a salesman who looked that way at selling cars.

      “Whatever you need sold I’ll sell it. Bring in a tank and I’ll sell the (expletive) thing.”

      “I grabbed some guy, he’s ahh, you know, he don’t know if he wants to buy…”

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      “I laugh when I read about someone who walked away from a salesperson because they didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of whatever car they were looking at that day.”

      I agree, that is silly. The salesman doesn’t need to be anything other than a warm body. I bought a car a few weeks ago, and the salesman was a mouth-breathing idiot. He was annoying to deal with, but I just told myself that he didn’t build the car. His only role was to walk back and forth between myself and his sales manager.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Put down the mouse, you’ve found it!! Here at Jack Asse Motors your satisfaction is our priority! Imagine driving this _NISSAN LEAF_ home! Real gas sipper! Best color combo!

    As if dealing with the idiot salesman in person wasn’t enough (show me where I put the gas in this Nissan Leaf, would you?), now you get to be shouted at by him even in the descriptions. It’s vomitous.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Bark is right that in general, car dealers aren’t great businessmen. I could tell you countless stories about legitimate money that dealers just leave on the table while going the easy greasy route. It’s the path of least resistance. Most of these guys can make enough to get fat and lazy by just catering to their captive market and nothing else. It’s WAY worse on the fixed ops side.

    The top performers that hit all their marks tend to be owned by large dealer groups who have well defined processes and regional guys that beat them regularly. But then group stores come with their own set of problems. They tend to think THEY are the franchisor and not the factory.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Another pet peeve are dealers who leave inventory online long after they have been sold. I understand that they are likely paying a flat fee to Autotrader and from their perspective, a phone call on a sold car is still a call.

    However, it pollutes the sites and makes it harder to find a car. Frankly, many of us look at listings on Craigslist and eBay a lot and when one sees the same car on their for weeks I just assume it’s a fright pig, the dealer doesn’t manage his listings, or he’s just looking to flip me into something else. Either way, I don’t want to do business with them.

  • avatar

    @Bark,

    Wonderful recap of what dealers should be doing to move “metal”.

    As you know the large dealer groups in the US retail a vehicle in 30 days or less, and have a 60 day hard turn policy. These groups have to be doing something right to retail vehicles in 30 days.

    Its the smaller dealers that are not consistent, and disciplined that continue to struggle with photos, market pricing, unique descriptions for the vehicles. Invariably these smaller dealers take a longer time than 30 days to retail a unit.

    The competitive landscape dictates selling vehicles quickly at market price, PCP is the first step to play the game competitively.

    The challenge for smaller dealers is the “price to play” from photos, site, syndication, descriptions, and so on. These guys always feel that “someone” is taking advantage of them for thousands every month.

    Buy it for 10K as an example, pay an auction fee on top, recon, and then the digital fee which no one factors in and its easy to save the money. Then the vehicle lingers, depreciates, buy a fresh one start over again, now 2 linger around and so on.

    There are the digital haves, the digital half haves, and the have not.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I hate the ads that say “Call for price”. I won’t. Why did they even bother to post the ad?

  • avatar
    tommytipover

    I’d worked in the back end of dealers for 30 some years. You want to know why car dealers are the worst businessmen? Because most of them are former car salesmen or sons of dealers who are former car salesmen. Hardly ever a businessman in the bunch.

  • avatar
    greytraveler

    Too many posts to read them all but I get the drift.

    I know what I want in our next car purchase. So the search is for that vehicle at an acceptable price.

    The only person I want to see at the dealership is the finance guy to sign the papers, get the keys and pay. Good luck with that. Oh well, it is a goal.

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