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DealerDefender Nov 2011

Written by Jim Ziegler

As I put these thoughts into print, I've been sitting here gathering my notes and reflecting on the issues of the day in the retail automobile business for more than nine hours already before the first words were written into this paragraph. Writing these articles for more than fifteen years now, I’m always amused when others are unaware of the vast amount of research that goes into it.


Finally home from a whirlwind travel schedule that found me in twenty-three cities in fourteen weeks; I’m facing four days of performing Automobile Management Seminars in Atlanta this week and one more in-dealership consultancy in Wisconsin with nothing else scheduled, so far, until after the holidays.


This is an exciting time of year for us. Debbie and I are planning another Thanksgiving at The Ritz Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation at Lake Oconee. This has been our tradition since they began the celebration eight years ago... we've been there with Sadie (dog friendly) since she was a puppy. Through the years a number of dealers and managers and their families have also shared the holiday season with us here. It is a family oriented wonderful experience beginning the night before to set the Holiday spirit. If you haven't made other plans, we'd love to bump into you and your family this year.


Check out the video -

Two Great Books… Two Points of View

In these turbulent and uncertain times most of us lived through a moment in history that shook our core beliefs and shattered our paradigms. When corrupt liberal government, grand-standing political hacks on both sides of the aisle, incompetent manufacturers, and an international economic meltdown… a convergence of self-serving interests and adverse circumstances… ganged up and viciously attacked entrepreneurial, family owned dealerships… yanking their franchises and redistributing their customer  bases to their former competitors. Our government intervened in free enterprise and made arbitrary selection of which dealers were worthy to survive and which were destined to bankruptcy or loss of legacy.


Remember, some of these dealers’ grandfathers made commitments to the manufacturers decades ago…and they invested millions in the furtherance of the manufacturers’ product and reputation. I am ashamed of what the manufacturers’ and the government did to these business people totally against the foundation of the American Dream. If this abomination were to stand unchallenged, 189,000 American Family Jobs would be erased.


There was never a sound business reason to terminate these dealers’ businesses; it was always politics and payback.


Maybe that is why I am continually applauding Ford Motor Company, and more specifically, Alan Mulally, who refused to participate in the bailout and let the free market and competition (The American Way) determine which dealers emerged from the economic collapse.


In the midst of the congressional hearings, the government bailouts, and the government takeover of private enterprise, several heroes arose, sacrificed several years of their lives, and fought back…They organized a movement that touched the nation’s conscience, moved politicians, and overturned much of the injustice.


Both of these dealers are personal friends of mine and great Americans… I’m talking about Alan Spitzer and Tammy Darvish. AND, our industry owes them both a debt of gratitude.


As it was happening, I supported them in every speech, every article I wrote and every correspondence and mass email I was responsible for. Actually, Al Spitzer has been a friend of mine for twenty years… I only met Tamara Darvish after it was all over, though we spoke on the phone and email as it was going down.


With the elections coming up… to defend our right, as entrepreneurs, to continue to exist against a hostile political atmosphere running amok in corruption, anti-small-business sentiment, and union political payback; You’ve got to read both of these books and get active and vocal.


First of all… Alan Spitzer with the help of Alison Spitzer has published a book titled… ‘Grand Theft Auto’

Alan and Alison’s book is a chronological account of the events as they unfolded in the fight to get congressional support and turn the situation around. Personally, I have a reputation as being a tough competitor: I’d take on Chuck Norris before I’d tangle with Alan Spitzer.


Alan Spitzer was the catalyst that started the counter-movement…this is the guy that fired the first shot back at the injustice.


When it first began Alan called me and I got behind him in print and speeches. NADA should have him as a keynote speaker at one of the National Conventions, given a medal and declared a hero.


Another Perspective

The book’s title is… ‘Outraged: How Detroit and the Wall Street Car Czars Killed the American Dream’

By Tamara Darvish and Lillie Guyer

Excuse me, I know ‘Tamara Darvish’ sounds good for the Amazon and Kindle crowd…Tamara, that’s her Hollywood name but I like to think of her as Tammy Darvish, a woman of the people, for the people, etc. You know what I mean. She’s a hero of the masses.


This book is more emotional than Alan’s…more emotion and venom. No doubt, they hit her and she hit back. It’s not cool to iss off Tammy Darvish.


I relate to Tammy Darvish in a big-big way because her and I…me and Tammy…we are both crusaders when there’s a cause worth fighting for.  


Give me a just cause, and I’ll kick your sorry ass from here to there.  Look at my track record through the years for taking on Goliath and winning… then, look at Tammy Darvish…she’s very much like me. What’s not to like? BTW Alan’s no lightweight either.


Influence is power and crusaders are relentless…they absorb pain to inflict pain on the offenders. You seriously want to take on Alan Spitzer, Tammy Darvish or Jim Ziegler…pack your lunch and check your insurance policies. You want to tangle with this threesome; you’re going to get your ass kicked.


Obama should have checked Tammy’s credentials and Alan’s track record.


I needed both of these books to get the entire story. Please check it out, it’s important. Believe me, you won’t get it unless you read both books and put the pieces of the puzzle together.


You know what really sucks?

I don’t get a nickel if you buy either of these books…no birddog agreement…nothing…these guys (gals) are just friends of mine AND they are great people and YOU need to hear this message. Buy the books now while you’re thinking about it.


Toyota and Honda…is there a curse on your house?

Damn, the hits just keep on coming…when’s it gonna end?


The plagues in the Old Testament are light compared with the bad luck that Honda and Toyota, especially Toyota, are experiencing.


DeJa Vu …it’s perpetual with Toyota…bad luck follows worse luck lately. 


I keep trying to get away from writing about Toyota… and Honda… but… the bad news forces me to give this subject another few paragraphs. It seems as if the former bullet-proof franchises of our industry are out of aces looking at a royal flush across the table where Hyundai sits wearing a hoodie and sunglasses.


Uncontrollable circumstances keep kicking them down when it appears they’re regaining momentum.


The headline read…

Toyota, Honda may not recover output until '12 with Thai flood

(Automotive News)

For the last few months it has pained me to see Honda Dealers unable to get inventory as they struggled to sell units that were scheduled to arrive.


While other manufacturers gained market share as these former juggernauts, Toyota and Honda, were covering up on the ropes as they were hit by repeated blows of recalls and natural disasters.


We’ve all been waiting to see what Honda and, especially Toyota, were going to come out with in the way of new product and super-incentives.


Truthfully, so far they have been a disappointment with new product offerings. At their national meeting Toyota announced to their dealers that the gloves were off and they were about to come out of their corner smoking…BUT…we haven’t seen it yet.


As I have written in numerous articles here and in other publications… Toyota has totally mismanaged the entire situation from beginning to end…and still ongoing. From the bland flaccid Toyota Camry re-design to the lack of aggressive incentives, even before the Thai floods; Toyota management seems adrift and lost. They allowed Columbus Day Sale incentives to disappear, which has always been strong for them. What kind of weak-assed marketing strategy are these guys thinking about?


Hyundai and Kia are eating their lunch…and rightfully so. Great product and superior marketing.


Every time you think they’re going to crush the competition something else happens. NOW, it’s the floods in Thailand. This global economy is killing us. This is the worst disaster for our industry since the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan last spring.


NOT just for the Japanese manufacturers…but Ford also has a manufacturing presence in Thailand that might cause disruption of product.


Ford announced assembly will start up again in Thailand after November 14th.


Excuse me; does the UAW accept any responsibly for the excessive demands on the manufacturers that have driven automobile production overseas, to the Non-Union South, California and to Mexico? 


Maybe, just maybe, we’ve had enough of you guys and your pressure tactics.


With 10% of the U.S. adult population out of work… does it occur to any of these people to be grateful they even have a job?


…regardless of whatever deals our president made with the devil.


Do Those Hamsters Make You Smile?

Gotta tell you. Kia’s marketing is brilliant…even more so than parent-company, Hyundai.


Tuned in to the demographic and connecting…you gotta love it.


I’m working with several dozen Hyundai and Kia Dealers, and; I’ve got to tell you, they are the happiest dealers on the planet…especially Kia dealers.


The problem with Hyundai and Kia right now is that they can’t get product that sells because the factories are beyond capacity. These guys (gals) are smiling…because…


#1 The manufacturers aren’t screwing with them about facilities, cappuccino machines, stair step programs and car washes…


#2 Their manufacturers are listening to them and bending over backwards to get them product to sell… cooperation instead of red tape and intimidation


#3 They are focused on great quality product and superior marketing


You Know Who Else is Really Happy Right Now?

 …That’s right…Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep dealers…that’s who.


I’ve been agonizing…bouncing back and forth…trying to decide whether Sergio Marchionne is a certified ‘Nut Job’ or a ‘Messiah’, maybe he’s really a visionary marketing genius.


Evidently Sergio’s the genuine article. In October Chrysler posted a 28% sales increase…nine consecutive months in a row of sales gains. We’ve got Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram dealers slapping high fives…especially Jeep dealers.


The star of the show…the redesigned Jeep Compass, originally rejected as a mutant before it became a landslide hit with consumers.


Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram dealers I know are ecstatic and the mood is positive. However, there are clouds of discontent forming on the horizon as it appears Chrysler might start accelerating their programs of screwing with their dealers…turning up the heat as other manufacturers have done with facility and incremental incentive programs. Stay tuned to see if the manufacturer screws it up as others always seem to do.


Have you ever noticed that when things are really starting to take off…that some morons at the factory think they need to start dicking around with the dealers and they screw it all up?


Stupid Little Ugly-Assed Cars Still Ain’t Selling


I’ve tried…believe me I’ve tried.


I want to be socially and environmentally responsible, really I do. BUT, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I still can’t bring myself to even begin to get why anyone would want a Smart Car, a Mini, or a Fiat 500.


I even tried to write some positive articles BUT the entire time the words were pouring into the keyboard my heart was screaming ‘This is Bull Crap’.


I know there are issues…and I’ve tried to embrace them. Even though all of these products intellectually make sense and are socially correct…


What kind of Granola-eating, ‘Occupy Wall Street Weirdo’ would get caught dead in the vicinity of one?


This might be Sergio’s biggest miscalculation…


First of all…excuse me, my opinion here, this is Ziegler talking… Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t be caught dead in a Fiat 500 (unless she was paid a boatload to appear in a commercial) AND I believe everybody knows that.


Secondly, Fiat sales are seeing month to month declines every month, approaching infinity. Fiat with 123 dealerships and sales less than 2000 units a month with a down arrow is not my idea of a hot franchise. Does Sergio have the magic to pull it off? Who knows? BUT, do I really want to throw a lot of money at it to find out?


Now, don’t get me wrong here… I’d love for Fiat 500 sales to explode and capture the market… BUT…that ain’t gonna happen is it? We all want this to be a success; unfortunately the realities of the market response are obvious. Could that change? Yes, we’ve seen trends reverse and the buying public has been unpredictable in the past when we thought we had it nailed, they went the other way.


We’ve already seen evidence that Smart Cars really aren’t (Smart that is). Besides Richard Simmons, Gilbert Gottfried, and maybe a few of the Dancing With the Stars Contestants, who else could you realistically picture driving one?


You Know What Else really Pisses Me Off

… Lazy smug Europeans, who won’t pay their taxes, want to retire when they’re 50 and sponge off of their broke-ass government for the rest of their sorry lives, vacation often, lay around drinking wine and bad-mouthing America waiting the rest of the world to rescue them and bail their worthless asses out.


Here we are with the entire world is struggling to stand on our feet and face the economic challenges of our times and, low and behold, the citizens of Greece reject a bailout from France and Germany that required some fiscal discipline and austerity.


The worst part of it all is that these slugs might drag us back into another recession because the U.S. will ultimately end up bailing them out through the World Monetary Fund. Just my opinion, I might be wrong. What do you think?


Unconscionable and Stupid

The new Chevy Sonic…it’s a great little car, a lot of value for the money with a $79.00 profit markup for the dealer. We have to lose money on every one of them after we prep it and pay the sales person a mini.


So guess what? If I am a Chevy salesman my incentive is to switch every Sonic buyer to a used car I can make a decent profit on.


I don’t know about you, but I am sick of the manufacturers expecting us to sell cars and trucks with no mark up. What do you think? Do you have any other examples that come to mind?


The Incredible Power of Relationships

Sitting here processing words and thoughts, it occurred to me as my Twitter Followers just surpassed 21,000 people that technology has accelerated productivity beyond what the mind can comprehend.


Totaling up all of my Social Networks, Facebook, ecademy, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter… I have more than 110,000 friends and followers.


AND, I am not even the ultimate by a long shot. If the most powerful people on earth are those people who influence the most other people, assuming influence is power, then; Social Media has exponentially increased our reach and influence a thousand times and still multiplying.


These online acquaintances grow into real world, lifetime friends and customers… I have so many solid relationships and friendships with real people that began as a Social media contact.


Relationships are the currency of the New Age, money is only measurement… here’s what I mean…


If your dealership is not diving into this phenomenon and creatively marketing, you’re going to be left behind.


Well, winding down as the snifter of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac sits empty beside the keyboard… I am looking forward to some time at home; although Debbie is betting I can’t help myself…I’ll book some more trips and speeches.


I’m speaking at NADA Convention in Las Vegas in February on F&I…sort of returning to my roots. Watch the Video here…


Whatever you do, don’t miss this year’s NADA Convention. I predict it will be the best one in years.


AND, of course, there will be another Internet Battle Plan event somewhere in between…planning it now.


AND, I will be one of the featured presenters at the Digital Marketing Strategies Conference prior to NADA in Las Vegas. My topic is how to structure and negotiate a Car Deal… once again back to my roots and the ‘Lost Arts’. Don’t miss this conference hosted by my friend, Brian Pasch. Click here to find out more…


Well, out of words and fading… been in the chair writing, researching, and thinking too long… (smile) Hope you liked this and welcome your comments.



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Comment by John L Mecham on December 2, 2011 at 1:22pm


We are best when you return to our roots.  A car deal is still a car deal.

Best to you


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