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Name a publication or forum that claims to be "open" and "fair," but where at least two key contributors/editors have used it to fuel their own personal agendas and actively shut out the opposition?  That would be ADM.  Here is an example...


In case you missed it, I posted this (see below in italics) in a thread in defense of TrueCar after two key editors of ADM created an incredibly hostile, non-open, biased environment over the past several days to serve some hidden/personal agenda.


Sure, anyone can chime in so technically it's "open."  But when it's YOUR house, YOUR forum, YOUR rules, YOUR personal agenda, and YOUR editors literally 1) dictating what is shown and not shown, 2) dominating the conversation, 3) misstating facts and/or taking others out of context, and 4) blatantly dismissing opposing viewpoints and even launching PERSONAL attacks on the integrity of the opposition (including respected professionals like Grant Cardone or Tom Stuker, both of whom support TrueCar, as well as TrueCar employees including myself, etc.), that is hardly a "fair" and "open" forum. 


These unprofessional actions have resultantly shut out the silent MAJORITY from rationally laying out opposing viewpoints to get a fair discussion on this topic.  It is IMPOSSIBLE for this to be a "fair" debate, because we simply don't have the time to debate multiple editors who are online all day fueling this fire and agenda when we have day jobs.


Fortunately, the silent majority IS speaking off-the-record because they know this forum debate is one-sided and therefore completely futile to comment on at this point.  Instead of comments, we actually had a record number of dealers contact us and sign up to become TrueCar Certified dealers in the past couple weeks because dealer PRINCIPALS a) recognize the significant value proposition we represent to dealers and consumers alike, b) understand the incremental profit we help provide to dealers, and c) are working hard to adapt to the rapid shift in customer demand going on in the marketplace and believe we help them to that end.  So we sincerely appreciate the tremendous off-line support we've gotten from top industry consultants, analysts and firms, dealers, vendors, and even competitors (as crazy as that sounds) who have reached out to us privately to keep pressing forward.  The fact that the thread in question fails to create a "fair" and "open" forum and has factually silenced the majority is disappointing.


In fairness, Ralph Paglia has reached out multiple times privately to assure me that ADM continues to be a fair and open forum, and thanked me for toughing it out and participating in the discussion to the limited extent I am able as I can't be online 24/7.  I respect him for reaching out like that and have no beef with Ralph (or even Keith or Jim quite frankly, as I don't think they're bad people...I just happen to disagree with them on this issue based upon the facts).  But the reality is that this is not a fair and open discussion on this particular subject, but an editorial soapbox with an ulterior motive.


So to the silent majority that has viewed these threads and continues to reach out to us daily, thanks for the support and keep your private comments coming in...we appreciate it.


P.S.  I don't have any more time to post on ADM!!!  Too much work to do, so this is it for the foreseeable future...and don't expect any other posts from me until I get my projects done, which will probably be in a few months...peace out...


(Here is the post in the previously mentioned thread)


@Keith...I have to say I do take some offense to you essentially calling me, Devin and others we work with liars.  First, I have built a tremendous reputation of integrity and a proven track record of helping dealers knock it out of the park throughout my entire career.  Second, we have clearly stated facts, which you and others have twisted and misstated to suit an agenda. 

 

From a professional and journalistic perspective too, you are an EDITOR for ADM.  That is a special title that does not give you or any other ADM editor the right to baselessly attack participants to suit your own agenda and/or create a hostile, biased, editorialized environment in the process.  That flies in the face of a welcome/open forum and journalistic standards.  Keith Crain does not chime in and attack people in threads at Automotive News for expressing their differing viewpoints.  My friend Dutch Mandel at AutoWeek doesn't do that either.  Stephen Moore doesn't do that at the WSJ.  And so on.  They create and facilitate an environment that fosters healthy debate and learnings. But when the editors of a publication or forum actively create a hostile, biased, environment to suit their own agenda, it absolutely prevents and discourages the silent majority (and yes, it is the majority) from offering their differing viewpoints, which is counterproductive to the learning process in a truly "open" forum.

 

I have stated facts, and also have provided context for my perspectives (my extensive and diverse OEM, retail, marketing, consulting/Six Sigma, and technology background), and yet my facts and perspectives have been summarily dismissed as "liar liar pants on fire."  For example...

 

  • As I've previously stated, I'm a franchising expert, have stated that it is basically impossible to eradicate a dealer network (unless the OEM ceases to exist of course), and asked for anyone to explain how exactly that could be done since many of you actually believe that about TrueCar.  Yet I've gotten no answer.  Why?  Because we all know it can't be done.  That said, why is this even remotely a topic of discussion if it is impossible and untrue for TrueCar or anyone to do?
  • I've stated that TrueCar factually generates incremental profitability for dealers, yet that is dismissed with no data to the contrary. 
  • I've stated that EVERYONE thinks and knows there are too many dealers...dealers think this, many OEMs think this, industry experts (e.g. Roger Penske) and analysts think this, and so on.  So if I or anyone says that the market needs fewer dealers, there is no debate on that...it is a true statement.
  • Edmunds gets far more traffic than TrueCar and shows TMV cost and pricing data.  KBB gets far more traffic than TrueCar and shows Reality Check cost and pricing data.  So they have far more volume than we do, have shown cost and pricing information far longer than we have, yet no one here has ever criticized them for fueling an alleged race-to-zero for showing that cost and pricing information to far more customers than we do.  Strange.
  • No one has presented any data to support that pricing transparency fuels a race-to-zero.  Yet while more customers have seen pricing and cost information in Edmunds, KBB, and TrueCar year-over-year, overall transaction prices and margins have increased year-over-year.  How is that possible if such information fuels a race-to-zero?
  • It has gotten so low that even Grant Cardone is being accused here of lying on behalf of TrueCar (because of a Fox News affiliation?!).  So is Tom Stuker lying too for supporting what we do?  Are the other top consultants throughout the industry all lying too in their support of TrueCar?  Or they are all just wrong and everyone here is right? 
  • I asked a simple question before...if your daughter/mother/sister/wife was buying a car for the first time, would you let them go to a random dealer in the market and buy a car with no input or help from you?  To date, I have NEVER gotten a "yes" answer to this, and many dealers have even added half-jokingly that they probably wouldn't let them buy a car unannounced from their own dealerships.  Therein lies the problem, customers aren't getting a great experience, and we all know it.  And that is part of the reason why TrueCar (and our partners like Consumer Reports, USAA, et al), Edmunds, KBB, AutoTrader, Cars.com, CarWoo, CarPerks, AutoNation Direct, Costco, and probably more than a hundred others all exist...to try and meet the rapidly evolving wants and needs of current and future car buyers, and work WITH valued dealer partners to mutually achieve that goal.
  • Regarding this eradication of the dealer network notion, I'm reminded that Costco has never been the subject of outrage, yet they facilitated the sale of FAR more vehicles last year than TrueCar, at rock bottom prices, and if they could figure it out, they'd get rid of all dealers and sell and service vehicles themselves (i.e. become the dealer themselves) because they have the central locations and brick and mortar to do it.  They legitimately are a FAR greater threat to dealers than TrueCar or anyone else, yet again, I never heard one word about them.
  • About 1.5% of retail sales will be facilitated by TrueCar and our nearly 100 partners this year.  Again, how can this possibly destroy the entire dealer network as you know it, and overcome the other 98.5% of sales they make outside of TrueCar?  And if we absolutely CRUSHED it in the next few years and miraculously got to a whopping 5% somehow, explain how that will overshadow the other 95% of sales dealers make?  When I was running a store, I did the math and we could have literally sold 5% of our cars every month for a $5,000 loss each, and STILL turned a profit for the entire dealership.  I could have literally given a way 1.5% of our vehicles every month and still turned a profit for the store.  If 1.5% of retail sales is going to devastate your dealership, as Grant Cardone said in his video, and Tom Stuker told me the other day, you have some serious problems and have only yourself to blame.
  • AutoTrader has HomeNet, KBB, vAuto, VinSolutions, etc. in their portfolio, and a huge warchest too.  They just enhanced their cost and pricing data for consumers with Reality Check, but again, not a word from anyone here despite having FAR more volume and more brand awareness than us.  They are a well-run company, plan to IPO, have a warchest, have DMS access, and have Stapleton (I love ya Stapes! =), etc.  But again, not a word from anyone here about it despite the similarities.

 

So given these facts, I have to ask again, why are we spending so much time and energy a company impacting 1.5% of sales, and also not applying consistency in criticism of other similar businesses?  It's funny...when there are major disagreements on something, I turn it around and ask people to name one thing about it that is good or positive.  If people are honest, there is almost never a time you can't say something legitimately positive about it.  Hey, I understand Jerry has assailed us to no end, but he's entitled to his opinion, he's not an editor or contributor here, and I respect that.  And I'm sure his company does some good work for dealers too, so I have no beef there either.  But if we all take a step back, breathe for a second, I think we can look at everything a little bit differently...

 

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

We have been involved with the internet for nearly a decade and the majority of dealers don't have a clue.  The majority of them don't come to sites like ADM.  The few that do, know that they don't need TrueCar or any "lead provider".  Obviously, you are talking to the 80% that don't know what they a doing and have weak internet departments.

Doug - The ADM Community has had over 20,000 Absolutely Unique Visitors over the past 30 days, with over half of them coming from networked connections that are most likely dealerships and dealer groups... About 20% of the total site traffic has been from identifiable OEM LAN's.  There are more eyeballs on these threads than you may realize.

Ralph,  I underestimated the size of the ADM community.  I have noticed friends that I have met on other internet related sites. 

A plan.  Kick True Car to the curb in your stores. Correctly market to your data base and through your normal mooch gathering methods that you will beat any true car deal by a enough of a margin to enable you to get a customers attention and sell a car and not pay TC their fee,  or give away your data doing it.  Several dealers used cash for clunkers as a launching pad for their own CC program. Come on dealers we are smarter in our business than this outsider.  I have done the math several times and it pencils. Look at what your drop is on gross with TC and what you pay these bandits for your customers. Back the math in to loosing this same gross to get the deals from TC.   Let the lazy dealers who have always been lazy have the TC mooches and pray the service department sells enough to them in the warranty period or there is a recall.  IF YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE THE PRODUCT AWAY. 

JD,

When the majority of dealers started publishing asking prices on the Internet, the trade-off between volume and gross was codified.  As Michael pointed out in his article, TrueCar is still pretty tiny (1.5%) so if your dealers are worried about giving up volume by avoiding TrueCar, I doubt there is much risk there.  However, if they want to understand the impact of aggressive online pricing to drive volume, I recommend Dale Pollak's Velocity and Velocity II.  He does a great job of explaining the CarMax business model and the implications of dealers taking advantage of the net profit impact of improving inventory turnover.  For example, 10-days turn is worth at least $350 to a high volume dealer, so the CarMax buyer at auction is going to outbid you on the best cars because he knows his high customer volume will allow him to sell that car 15-20 days faster than you can.  He can pay $500 more at wholesale and still net more profit than you could.

Charles,

ADM is a VERY un-biased and fair forum for anyone to discuss their opinion.

I have had the pleasure of speaking with several of the Editors personally and by phone many times and I can tell you that they are good solid people that have the Dealers best interest at heart, (I can't say that about Truecar).

The amount of information on every aspect and department of a dealership that is shared on ADM is tremendous. The sheer amount of knowledge and ideas are unbelievable in their scope.

The forums make it possible for everyone to voice their own opinion. I have had a couple of spirited debates with several members in regards to differing opinions on how to get something done "the best way". At the end of those debates, both parties came away with more and better information to help a dealer or dealership produce better results.

Truecar has awoken the giant (Dealers) as to just how important their data is. Truecar has been a catalyst in this process, so I would like to thank you for that.

At the end of the day, I believe that this discussion and the other blogs on Truecar will be a rallying point for the dealer body to come together and eradicate those that endanger their well-being. It SHOULD be a rallying point and a wake up call to ALL DEALERS to protect their data.

I also hope that it is a rallying point for the Dealers to train your people and perfect your processes. Truecar exist for one reason and one reason only......the public doesn't like to be treated unprofessionally. The public wants professional people that can understand their wants and needs and deliver to them a product or service that fit those needs. Give the public what it wants and companies like Truecar will cease to exist.......

Ralph, what you do is admirable.  I saw nothing in this discussion to indicate you as a "shill".  ADM is an open forum and you provide that safe haven for all parties in a discussion to provide their point of view.  Anyone calling for censorship of someone else's views is simply wrong.  Once you begin to censor people, where does it end?  I for one, thank you for the great work you do here! 

David - straight from a Truecar employee, "THE ENTIRE SUITE OF PRODUCTS WILL BE ONLINE IN LESS THAN SIX MONTHS."

Just to share some info...I've been with ZAG (truecar) since March of this past year.  It was very sluggish at first, where I sold only 1 car in each of the first 2 months.  Since that time, however, I've sold 42 vehicles through their network at a 10.2% closing ratio (100% sold over the phone and home delivered), with our average front end gross on those vehicles at $1522 (about $280 less than normal).  We find the clients continue to be open to vehicle negotiation and pricing fairness...as it relates to getting them a specific vehicle...and I only pay when I sell a car (What dealer DOESN'T like that idea?!).

 

Painter has some good points as they relate to consumer opinion, and some fair and unfair points as they relate to dealers.  Although his personal presentation value blows, I don't need to like him OR hate him...I'm indifferent to the personalities. 

 

The results speak the truth to me, and Zag (truecar) is a dynamite source of valuable leads and income for my dealership.  It's up to me to create a profitability model that works well for the market.  Should I hate that the larger market clientele wants this information?  No...I sould be paying close attention to that market and listen to what they're saying.

 

I can work gross...that's my job...and I'm still doing it after 9 months with these guys (along with about 5000 other dealers, I hear).

 

As a side note, I already compete with an extraordinary amount of Employee Purchase dealerships who advertise and sell far below employee price...yet I still hold gross far above those numbers, too.  As dealers we can get the job done...you just have to know how. 

@ Tom:  Great work!  Disregarding personalities, do you agree with Scott Painter's points that begin about 6min40sec or so in this video (click here)--the one where he basically lays out his company's plans to eliminate dealers?  I don't see that as personality; I see that as an unnecessary, profit-stealing, hubris-fueled attempt to usurp the market you and I, and so many others, make a living from.  It's hardly about keeping gross.  It's bigger than most dealers can really see.

Water to your own knees on a beach is enjoyable.  Water to the knees of 15,000 dealerships across the USA . . . well, that's a tsunami.

Good selling, regardless, and it IS Saturday!

Thanks,

Keith

Frankly...I think he's kind-of a weed, but he's not without some smarts.  Remember a few years back when that dude from JD Power predicted the industry would/should be a big Walmart-style outlet for cars?  He was pummeled HUGE, yet there is still value in that company for many of us...as maybe there will be for Truecar once this dude's predictions/promises go south. He claims to be an industry expert but (once again) another expert arises who DOESN'T and HASN'T sold cars for a living.

 

Still...the concept of Truecar has value to the consumer.  Hard to argue that.  We, the dealers and salespeople, will ultimately decide the structure that will work for all parties...not Painter or others like him.  Thanks for the his idea, though!

I don't know.  When somebody points $200million headed towards a billion dollar IPO of stock and partners with DealerTrack (data) and USAA (shoppers) all pointed at our business, I don't think he is a weed at all.  The Internet has changed many things, including the acceleration of information and market change.  Thanks!

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