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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...

 

Tags: ADM, Automotive Digital Marketing, Grant Cardone, Jim Ziegler, Keith Shetterly, Scott Painter, Tom Stuker, TrueCar, Zag

Views: 2994

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

Well Stated!

Matthew, I wish you luck on Truecar. On a personal level, I would not want to be the contrarian in the face of this mountain of evidence who opens up my dealer's DMS.  I'm certain that after 60 days on the "program," you'll see the light.

I asked him to update us in 30 days.  It is amazing, really, that Jerry's video was so compelling that not only did he watch it and then sign up, Matthew came to the forums to support TrueCar without evidence that he was right.  I am excited to see what he comes back with!  Thanks.

Charles,

 

Your CEO, not you, has awakened a giant.  That giant is tens of thousands of dealers that have the power to accept or reject your company...whatever it is selling.  Whether the consumer buys in or not, we have the power to reject it and make it go away.  Your CEO attacked a giant with his words.  That was a mistake.  Your responses are in defense of his mistake.  Had he made his statements going into a Recession, maybe we'd have taken less stance.  However, coming out of a Recession, dealers feel stronger.  We are getting smarter.  We are getting back to gross.  Intelligence is at the top of our list.  We have a Sales Process to follow, whether we're on the internet or on the Line.  The Basics have never changed.  The only thing that has changed is the movement of data.  Admittedly, dealers have been dumb and gave it away in their vendor contracts (to "subsidiaries, partners and affiliates" as they are commonly known on vendor contracts.).  Ok, so we didn't know the value of our own data.  Now we know.  Now we are changing.  Now our network is awake and spreading the word to secure our data.  In theory, TMV, TrueCar, Reality Check, etc, can go away with our decisions to secure our own data.  They came in fast and they will go out fast.  We are committed to locking down data...our most valuable asset (it must be if the consumer finds it so valuable, right?).  Your CEO was kicking in the wrong door with his arrogant statement to eliminate salesmen from showrooms.  Most of my customers come back at least two times to get a refreshed training on their new technology.  Can TrueCar do that with people skills?  No.  We're in the people business.  We are dealers.  We are not a vending machine.  Never underestimate a seasoned sector of business.  We're much larger than your start-up.  Everyone outside of the sales associate is support...period.  The position of the sales associate must be respected.  They handle our customer...over...and over...and over again.

Isn't this the company run by a guy whose stated objectives are hostile to the traditional dealership model?  Isn't this the guy who wants to arm consumers against the dealer?  Doesn't he use the dealer's own data to help facilitate this?  Isn't this all under the guise of transparency?  Transparency doesn't pay one's overhead. 

What else needs to be known?

I have been thinking about this post all evening after Charles posted it, and I got a nasty email from somebody I respect accusing me of being a "shill"... I am old enough to know that trying to please everybody is a sure fired way of irritating everybody. Yes, I work for a marketing company that I am proud of, and yes I do drop a few positive mentions when the subject or topic lends itself to making such mention... However, I have also refused to accept ads from my employer to be placed on ADM, and you will rarely see any of my 100+ coworkers publish on this site. I have never diminished, moderated or censored my competitor's content posts or commentary. In many cases I have featured or even syndicated content posted by my direct competitors because in my opinion it was high value content that benefitted ADM members.

Have a few of our listed editors disagreed at times? Yup... And I reserve the right to pull rank when I believe it is in the best interest of ADM members.

With all that said and a lot more in my head (say it loud!), I know in my heart of hearts that I have worked tirelessly at ensuring that the ADM Professional Community be an open forum and publishing platform that allows all automotive professionals to share what is and what is not working, along with each member's opinion and perspective. If there had been ANY bias on ADM, it has been a positive bias towards the companies that support the site with their advertising payments.

Anyways... I am more disturbed by the nasty email I got tonight than anything Charles Kim has included in this discussion. So, if anyone sees me exerting what they believe is an unfair use of censorship or moderation, PLEASE call me out on it and I will prominently feature any bonafide complaint just like I have with Charles Kim. If any members have ideas about how to improve the ADM community or keep it free from
Censorship and hidden agendas, then please speak out so we can work towards keeping ADM as valuable as possible for its members.

Ralph, in the early days of ADM, you would get into heated arguments, takes sides and make sure your point of view was well known.  In recent years, it has been abundantly clear that you have chosen to play things down the middle and remain objective.  I think we can all agree that for ADM to grow in influence and credibility, as the chief moderator, you needed to remain objective.  For people to say that you are biased or unfair really goes to show that they don't know you.  I've seen you takes sides in the past and if you were taking sides, everyone would be crystal clear about which side you were on.  The very fact that someone sent you an email calling you a "shill" and remains unnamed is an example of how you have changed. 

Mike -Thank you for sharing your observations and opinions... They are appreciated!

This irritates more thank anything because whomever sent you that email has no proof of it, but I could find thousands of posts here on ADM that contradict what both that person and Charles Kim has said.

Ralph has always given of his time and intellectual resources to help anybody who has asked for it. I have seen many people take pot shots at Ralph, ADM or both and still he doesn't censor. We're behind you Ralph, and ADM.

David - ADM has become a labor of love for me and truly represents what I believe to have become my greatest contribution to the auto industry... I am hopeful that this community will continue to thrive long after I have returned to the dust God made me from.

I will say that Ralph Paglia and ADM came into my life at a time when I needed to revisit my professional efforts in this business.  Without ADM, which he created, and all the friends I made from being here, and all the great things I learned here, etc., I would never have progressed as successfully and positively as I have.  ADM is a wonderful place, in that sense, to me, and it always will be.  From the bottom of my heart, Ralph Paglia, my friend, THANK YOU!!!  :)

I have stayed silent on this issue for the duration of so far because there has seemed to be no shortage of opinions and my input wasn't necessary, but now it's important to speak as a truly unbiased observer.

There are dealers coming to me asking how to deal with the TrueCar threat. That's not an analysis, opinion, or motivated statement - it's simply a fact. These are dealers who are telling me that they're stuck between a rock and a hard place of choosing between losing more of the thinnest margins in American retail or losing on volume of sales.

I am open to hearing from both sides of the fence. I just haven't heard much positive yet.

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