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Jim Ziegler asks: Is It Time For the Retail Automotive Community to Rise Up and Get Rid of CarFax?

Enough is Enough!

Haven't you had it with all of these Data Pirates using our own customer information to defame us, lower our profits, alienate our customers... while at the same time they charge us through the nose to do us harm? 

 

Among the worst of them in my opinion is CarFax. They even believe they have the right to price our cars and trades.... too low of course. While at the same time CarFax exploits negative stereotypes that we are crooks in every commercial the Little Car Fox Rats out the dishonest bumbling and inept idiot car sales person. They charge us to defame us. 

Please read this article we just published in Wards Auto Magazine 

"My latest article is out and it's hot.  

Here are more than 250 Consumer Complaints and reviews about CarFax... look... http://www.consumeraffairs.com/automotive/carfax_inacc.html 

We have manufacturers supporting these people and requiring we do business with them. Let's get mobilized and scream at our factory representatives, reprint this article for your dealers, do press releases, and generally alert your State Dealer Associations and 20-groups. 

 

If a consumer asks for the CarFax, tell them it's $39.00. Whoever told you it was free was lying.

I am available to perform 20-group and Dealer Association Keynote Speeches on this subject. As of right now, I am calling out the Tribe to get on this subject. JIM

CarFax Gets Its Facts Wrong

Dealers tell me horror stories about CarFax experiences with customers. Those range from missing information to erroneous information.

I have a problem with data pirates who use dealer information against us, damage our reputation and cause consumer distrust.

 

To me, CarFax is high on that list. Let’s look at what this vehicle-history firm does.

 

It tells consumers its reports are free but charges dealers for them. So, if a dealer asks customers to pay for the report, they look at you like a criminal.

 

CarFax runs TV ads featuring deceitful car salesmen hiding the truth until the little Car Fox character shows up and sets the customer straight. This sets up CarFax as the Consumer Protector battling the Evil Car People.

 

The company uses dealer data to tell customers what to demand for their trade-in, based on what CarFax says is the value.

 

So, here we have another vendor setting prices and limiting dealer profits and charging dealers while it rummages through their customer information. We give them data and pay them to take it from us.

 

But beyond all that, CarFax is creating huge liability risks to both dealers and the auto makers.

 

“CarFax, lawsuit, settlement.” Enter those words in a Google search to see how many lawsuits have been filed against CarFax, from class actions to individual filings.

 

I Googled a number of other vendors using the same search words and couldn’t find anywhere near as many lawsuits and complaints. In one case, a court rejected a $500,000 award because the plaintiff attorneys said it was too low. 

 

Most of the allegations center on inaccuracy of information. I can attest to that. A relative bought a car two years ago, and the dealer showed us the CarFax showing a clean history. Then, recently when he tried to trade it in, another dealer said CarFax indicated the airbags had been deployed in an accident before he purchased the car.

 

Yes, CarFax does have some sort of disclaimer somewhere on its form saying it’s sort of possible its information might be wrong.

 

Does that give it a license to insinuate that consumers should rely on its information when buying? Do some consumers then believe a dealer altered the CarFax report and falsified information if it turns out to be wrong? Now we have more animosity.

 

Dealers tell me horror stories about CarFax experiences with customers. Those range from missing information to erroneous information saying a car had a problem (thus devaluing it) when it didn’t have a problem at all.

 

I am amazed some auto makers and even some dealer associations have jumped into bed with this firm, either endorsing it or requiring dealers to offer CarFax history reports to consumers.

 

The first time a consumer sues your dealership over anything involving CarFax, point to the auto maker that required the vehicle history. That auto company  should be a co-defendant.

 

CarFax has reached out to me several times asking me to meet with them. They know I talk about them in speeches and blogs. I recently had a trusted third party ask me to meet with CarFax.

 

I told that person there’s no reason for me to meet with these people. I think they are disreputable and they deliberately cause consumers to distrust dealers.

 

I do not believe their information is complete nor do I believe it’s fully accurate. They indirectly set unrealistic sales prices and interfere with the sales process. There’s little chance they could say anything to change my mind. And I’m not for sale.

 

If I were you, I would certainly examine my affiliation with CarFax. Then I would make doubly sure the company was not accessing my dealership management system to get information.

 

Then, I would tell consumers when they asked for the CarFax report that I don’t use it because the results can be erratic and unreliable. If the consumers insist, charge them for the report. It sure isn’t free.

 

Keep those calls and emails coming.

 

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reached at zieglerss@aol.com.

WardsAuto readers also may comment on this article by logging in or registering. 

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 29, 2012 at 7:42am

Cool.  They set the price for the car, they offer the VHR of the car, they aren't responsible for any errors with the VHR before or after the sale, and they claim a 'free' VHR service that the dealer pays for.  Who doesn't want to be them, if money is all you want?

Jim, as to this blog not being as emotional, some of that is due to the absence of response.  Perhaps the VHR company here is taking a lesson from the TC blog and NOT sending employees to respond.  Hoping not to inflame the blog but let it die.  Or perhaps for it to become irrelevant.

Not a good move for a publicly-traded company.  Some response is needed from them.  Just my opinion.

Comment by Justin Grubb on November 29, 2012 at 7:39am

The funny thing about that video is, they are only focused on new cars... I hate it when a customer asks for a carfax on a new car and then trying to explain to them why there isnt one

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 7:29am

Thanks for that Keith, Jeremy, Justin and Debra. I envision we'll still be posting on this Blog years from now unless by some miracle CarFax repents and apologizes. (Fat Chance of that) It is becoming increasingly obvious they hate their customers, the dealers and their employees. 

So their answer is to have a guy in a Fox Costume make stupid videos with dealership employees lip syncing and dancing as if we love CarFax and the Car Fox. 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 29, 2012 at 7:20am

VHRs have too much power.  If in error, there is hardly a way to appeal.  If it is a late error, you've paid too much and now are stuck with the current VHR.  These points mix in various ways, but in the end it is the DEALER who takes the heat.  And the consumer and dealer are both hurt.

VHR can be the new "Scarlet Letter", adding expensive and anti-dealer drama to a process that already has enough issues.

For a VHR company to then malign dealers, the very dealers who are PAYING their fee, just adds to the idea that the VHR company is not at fault.  It's always the dealer.  

Makes me sick.

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 6:51am

Justin please feel you have free license to post this everywhere where car people might read it. You are greatly appreciated. I also hope everyone forwards this on to your manufacturer reps.

Comment by Justin Grubb on November 29, 2012 at 6:46am

Well said Jim!  I have some friends with several other automotive blogs that would probably post your article if you think it would be beneficial.  Most of the blogs are more consumer read than anything, but if you'd like to start spreading the word among consumers Ill be glad to send them the link here and ask them to post some links

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 6:32am

I like the way the Blog is going. We are discussing CarFax more factually and less emotionally than the TrueCar debate last year. We're on three Blogs with this type of content and, to date there have been more than 7000 page views. 

Personally, I am sure AutoCheck is a good company, but; by the same token, I can't see where their information would be any more accurate than CarFax. So I am not pimping for AutoCheck either... or any other Vehicle History provider. I would have to believe they're all flawed because of latency in information and misinformation being put into the system by others they extract data from. 

My issue with CarFax is they appear to be arrogant and condescending. I believe from the demeaning content in their commercials  they really do believe we are a bunch of low-life jerks and they really do hate car people deep in their blackest recesses of their black hearts (humor)

Another issue is they do not accept responsibility for errors in their reports and the fact that these errors cost consumers and dealers alike a lot of money when an accident appears on the Carfax that happened before the consumer purchased the vehicle BUT CarFax report was clean at time of purchase, then the damage showed up on CarFax later. CarFax basically cost that consumer thousands in lost value because they cannot get timely information always. Maybe that's why the Consumer Affairs website has so many complaints and bad reviews about CarFax. Google how many lawsuits they had against them and educate consumers they may hurt you, as many have perceived they were damaged by CarFax reporting.

Then they have the nerve to take it upon themselves, by some voodoo measurement of their own to assume they have the right to price the cars. This is the biggest insult of all to the retail industry. They take our money, charge the dealer for the reports, and then tell the consumer this is the right price. These people have no honor, at least that's how I feel about them. 

So, as long as they continue to advertise that we are crooks, idiots, and jerks ... as long as they gouge and overcharge for reports with no more integrity than their competitors reports... as long as they continue to tell consumers these reports are free... as long as they continue to price our cars (unrealistically at that) ... as long as they continue to assume no responsibility for damages when their reports are wrong or late posting... as long as these situations continue; I will continue to write and speak about them and I will continue to educate consumers about the things I believe to be true about them. This blog is slow, but amazingly enough I am seeing signs the entire industry is beginning to buzz about the perceived evils of CarFax. I get hundreds of phone calls, emails, and private messages about these people and - overwhelmingly - it appears to me that most car people hate them, or are beginning to hate them because of the hateful way they treat us, their customers. Am I wrong about that?

Also we need to continually remind our manufacturers that many of us feel these people are disreputable and hurt our customers and the dealers on occasion. Although I do not necessarily endorse AutoCheck; I believe they are a better choice to do business with. I like AutoCheck better because they are at least as accurate, maybe more so than CarFax (opinion of mine) but the real reason I like them is they treat us, their customers with respect and they stay out of pricing our merchandise.

Comment by Debra L Bly on November 29, 2012 at 6:15am

Jeremy,

Ford company did make a change to Car Fax, for the certified preowned inventory only.  The change will take full effect on January 1st, requiring all certified vehicles to have a Car Fax printed and available for both certification and customer delivery. 

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 28, 2012 at 6:13am

Good morning everyone... I am amazed at all of the private emails and messages I am getting on this issue. This blog and this movement to educate dealers and consumers to potential damage and liability to dealers and to consumers as well that can occur because you did business with CarFax or gave up your service and body shop information to them is gaining momentum.

Carfax answer is videos of Car Dealer employees dancing singing and lip-syncing with the guy in the Fox suit. I interpret this as meaning they have no intention of changing their perceived evil ways. 

What is most different about this blog is that it's slow and steady, but; I can tell you the word is spreading throughout the industry as more and more dealer principals are communicating with  me about this. I am keynote speaker for a state dealer association annual convention in early December and this will be a big portion of my speech. 

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 27, 2012 at 5:12pm

I was contacted by someone from Automotive News this afternoon asking for my opinions on Carfax. I asked if this was about Jim Ziegler's article and they said, "Yes!" Jim always makes an impact!

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