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Google Enters New Car Lead Generation Business

Another prediction that I wrote about has come true.  Change is in the air again at Google.  Paid Search just took a big step forward or backwards, depending on how you think.  It's called "Google Commercial Unit For Cars".


In November 2011, I wrote about a product called "Google Advisor" which will change the landscape of paid search marketing for new car sales.    

It has taken a very long time for this product to get off the ground.  This type of product has been around in the mortgage lead generation business for years.


Well the Google Advisor product for automotive leads is here and it has a more common name: Google Cars.


I finally was able to see the product live today and so can you.  Just change your browser location to Zip Code 94301 and conduct a search on Google with this phrase:

Palo Alto Toyota

What you will see might shock you, as Google has clearly entered into the new car lead generation business.  I created a few screen shots to explain how the model works, and I am sure this will be evolving.  I would love to get your opinion on this strategy and if you would be interested in testing this new service.

San Francisco Bay Beta Test of Google Cars


Currently, this product is only available in the San Francisco Bay area.  We will find out when this will open up to other markets.   This is only for new cars and it requires a dealer to provide and inventory feed of their new cars.


According to my sources,  this product is focused on lower sales funnel queries meaning the buyer has already decided on a brand and a model to purchase.   So it will not be showing up for all automotive search queries, just a subset that Google believes have already made a brand/model selection.

Google Cars Inventory Model Results Page


When you Click on the first photo of the Toyota Camry in the red box above, you will be shown this page 


Google Cars Pricing Info


If you click on the "Google Price Info" link, you might get a chill down your spine, like TrueCar did for car dealers.  


The Google Price popup box is shown on the right.  If you click on the "Learn More" link, you can read about how these prices are determined.


The "regional price paid" data according to Google comes from data shared by dealers to the DMV in their state.   Here is what Google says:


Regional price paid tells you how much the vehicle you want tends to sell for in your area. It is calculated from real new car sales in your area over the past 90 days, as reported by dealers to the DMV.


Regional price paid is specific to the make, model, trim, packages, and options shown. It includes destination charge; it excludes taxes and fees. It may include incentives and other promotions running at that time that may have impacted the average price paid."


Google Cars VDP


When you you click on a specific vehicle, you will be taken to a VDP page that looks like this:

Google Cars Email Contact Options


And when you click to contact the dealer, you have three options.  Clicking on the "Email Dealer" choice reveals this screen.

Notice that the consumer can easily select other local dealers to quote on the same vehicle.  


Communication Via Proxies


I was able to confirm that this is a pay per lead model and user contact information is not shared, all communications will go through proxies.  Take a peek at the image above to see the statement "Google protects you from spam".



This is an attempt to limit spam to consumers from dealers. Read the information on this link:


This adds a degree of complexity since normal CRM workflows and contact strategies will be impacted by lack of direct phone number via proxies.  This means that leads generated by the program will really need to be worked to get direct contact information before the proxy period expires.


I will be working to get the information you need to prepare for this new opportunity in new car vehicle marketing.  If you have any specific questions, let me know.  You can send me an email to:


In the meantime, I'll be busy researching this and getting the facts.   Keep in mind that at AutoCon 2012 will have 3 deep dive workshops on all the latest paid search strategies that car dealers can leverage.




Brian Pasch, CEO
PCG Digital Marketing

Brian Pasch 


Views: 3493

Tags: google advisor automotive, google automotive lead generation, google cars


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Comment by Ryan Leslie on June 27, 2012 at 8:24am

Thanks for the clarification Keith. I see your point, but I think they are going to have difficulty making that case for the exact reason Ralph gave. There really isn't anything that they aren't willing to get into if it can be a profit center and I think that is going to hurt their case for preserving competition and "fair search" on the whole. I'll just say what I'm thinking here and not sugar coat it. They are making powerful and wealthy enemies in every vertical and I can't believe that the sum of those lobbying dollars and campaign contributions won't affect the eventuality and outcome of an Antitrust suit. The "consumers could always use a different engine" isn't going to cut it.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 27, 2012 at 8:02am

Thanks Ralph!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on June 27, 2012 at 7:59am

Ryan and Keith, one thing that both Google and Autotrader have in common for sure, is that they both sell advertising and their advertising revenues are over 90% of their total gross business dollars.  Here is something they have that is now very vividly different; Chip Perry has repeatedly stated that Autotrader will never get in the business of selling leads, they are an advertising and related services provider.  For Google, it is now obvious that there are few business models they will not consider developing.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 27, 2012 at 7:56am

Google no way, no how sees itself as the elevator.  Notwithstanding that, Google sells advertising to the tune of about $40billion in revenue a year.  SEO is their "fair chance" that (so far) has helped keep them out of some very hot "consumer advocate" water.

Autotrader has more in common with Google than most comprehend.  They didn't use "fair chance" (much), as they were defined originally as an advertising medium.  Which is, by definition, paying your way to the consumer's eyes.  Google developed paid advertising after the "free search" days.

And so Google is a broad paid and unpaid advertising portal and Autotrader is a specific paid advertising portal.  Google has now taken the step to become specific to a vertical market ($14billion in advertising this year) while still providing a level of (or at least perception of) "fair search" in SEO.

I wouldn't put much stock in 2004 for Google.  They have developed as a strong advertising platform, taking more and more key acreage from SEO for their paid ads as time has gone on.  Essentially, my comparison with A/T and The Big G is that Google can easily point to their SEO as a defense against being classed as poaching the consumer--because their easiest legal comparison for automotive is A/T.  Who has NO "fair chance" SEO component at all.

The first argument, anyway, is with the consumer.  If they like the service (TBD), then they become advocates of it.  If it can be shown to them and the FTC that the service hurts the consumer in the market (competition drops, etc.), then there's a case.

Regardless, Autotrader is a retail search portal and so is Google lots of the time.  And Google allows "SEO" when Autotrader doesn't.  SO, how is Google the "bad guy", then?

Whether I agree with the results for the market or for the consumer, it's a very valid argument for Google to make.

My $.02.  Thanks!

Comment by Cathy Nesbit on June 27, 2012 at 7:56am

Thanks for the info. 

Comment by Ryan Leslie on June 27, 2012 at 7:43am

Not sure I understand what you mean Keith.

Autotrader is a destination site that deals specifically with vehicle inventory, Google by their own definition in 2004 anyway, is a portal designed to digest your request and deliver you to your desired destination.

If the internet were a big department store, Google would be the elevator responsible for delivering shoppers to Housewares, Shoes and Lingerie so they could browse all of the available products by brand name manufacturers. If you were a shopper on this elevator you'd be feverishly calling maintenance right now. You're stuck somewhere between floors with the house brands being shoveled in through the access panel.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 27, 2012 at 7:14am

From the consumer's chair, I don't think it's an overreach at all.  I think it appears as a simplification and a valuable service, no matter the consequences behind the scenes--however, in the interest ofthe consumer, there are many questions for the FTC to address.  I will remind everybody that Autotrader has NO "SEO" component, and in fact allows dealers to buy themselves ahead in their pay-only rankings--even when the vehicle offered is nowhere near the actual vehicle searched.  As an SEO/PPC portal for retail searches, Google has some defense using that comparison, don't you think?  Opinion?  Thanks!

Comment by Ryan Leslie on June 27, 2012 at 6:59am


I couldn't agree with your sentiment more. Overreaching might be gentle! Even the SEO folks are questioning some of the latest moves.

I don't have time to make a detailed list of all of the things that Google has changed since the Senate hearing in Sept 2011, but it is extensive, and the unifying theme seems to be "what can we do to hold the user on a Google property longer." + pages are one thing, but look how much of the screen real-estate above the fold is Google held or Google Revenue driven placement. This is a tremendous departure from Google's position in 2004: (I lifted this from; very interesting blog coverage over there btw)

Quoting Larry Page of 2004, “Most portals show their own content above content elsewhere on the web. We feel that’s a conflict of interest, analogous to taking money for search results. Their search engine doesn’t necessarily provide the best results; it provides the portal’s results. Google conscientiously tries to stay away from that. We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible.”

So we are left to assume that either Google's mission has changed, or their definition of "right place" is "wherever Google drives revenue."

I'm a proponent of business and capitalism and don't like Government interjecting itself anymore than anybody else, but I also think the smart bet is to prepare for that eventuality. I'm waiting on July 2nd to see how Google's plan for preserving competition in the EU is received. That will be a strong indicator of what course the FTC takes in the impending Antitrust investigation and suit to follow.

All that said, I REALLY would not want to be a 3rd party lead generator or reseller this morning.

Comment by Brian Pasch on June 26, 2012 at 6:46pm

Team ADM

I was able to confirm that this is a pay per lead model and user contact information is not shared, all communications through proxies.  


Read the information on this link:


This adds a degree of complexity since normal CRM workflows and contact strategies will be impacted.  


Comment by Tom Gorham on June 26, 2012 at 5:37pm

I am watching intently.  I'm not sure Google is on a winning path.  They have been successful as the "impartial" search engine with the philosphy "Do no evil."  I'm really not sure how the public is reacting to their recent manipulations.  

I felt instinctively that their move from Google Places to Google+ Local was a mistake.  It looks clearly manipulative to the consumer as trying to move people from Facebook to Google+.  I really don't think that's going to happen. Just MHO. 

Though they have always been commercial, that has not always been clear to the consumer.  The path they're taking makes it unambiguously clear.  Will this be the chip in the armor that their competitors need to attack?

Of course, Google says "Boo" and everyone jumps.  Me too.  But are they overreaching?

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