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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 Justin Grubb on November 30, 2012 at 12:14pm
Great find Debra!
Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 30, 2012 at 11:49am

Jeremy, the social media person(s) at CF responded to some suggestions Micah made, but that's typically not a decision maker and certainly has some speed bumps (at the least) to get to one at CF.  It's interesting, though.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 30, 2012 at 11:18am

Yowza!  Go check out what Micah Birkholz started!  http://www.facebook.com/carfax/posts/10151567362707575?notif_t=like

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 30, 2012 at 7:55am

Tim it's wonderful to have another industry influencer like yourself check in on this. I am sorely disappointed that one of the popular automotive blog sites has sold out on this issue. Pricing is certainly an issue with these people. They gouge and smile and have the nerve to price our products. The real issue with me is they use their advertising to demean and belittle us in the car industry. The people they portray as car sales persons are blithering idiots in the commercials... I believe they try to make us look like crooks when the customer allegedly asks for the CarFax and the little Fox saves them from the obviously lying car salesman. I have heard Carfax say they are Not trying to make us look crooked... You couldn't prove that to me by watching their commercials. It seems to imply there is a problem with the car and the salesman is trying to hide it and the Fox rats him out. 

Comment by Timothy Martell on November 30, 2012 at 7:18am

When I worked in retail at Marlboro Nissan, a CarFax rep came to the dealership to convince the dealer to switch from Autocheck to CarFax. In the end, they were triple the price and the rep insisted on pricing the dealer 2 price buckets higher than they needed based on the number of used cars in inventory! When we questioned why they were pricing us over retail he went back to his management (sounds a lot like a bad car dealer sales process) when he finally followed up he said, "thats just the way it is if you want to have a CarFax caliber company provide VHR's."

This was over 3 years ago. Enough is enough happened long ago. Its time for a revolution! I don't even think most car dealers realize how much they're being taken advantage of.

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 9:21am

This website of customer reviews is a hoot. Evidently not everyone is happy with CarFax. What do you think?  http://carfax.pissedconsumer.com/ 

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 8:55am

Thanks Debra... Little do they realize how many dealers are paying attention to this conversation and the opinions of the participants on this blog and others. CarFax in their supreme arrogance believes this will blow over and go away. I know from experience that they will see this thing explode in coming weeks/months as the message spreads and sinks in. One thing I can promise is that the manufacturers and other vendors who are propping them up will back off of them as the heat turns up from the newly-educated dealers.

There is no amount of PR they can do that will reverse what's coming. 

Comment by Debra L Bly on November 29, 2012 at 8:49am

Jim,

I have always felt alot of emotion when viewing the Car Fax commercials.  In my previous job at L.L.Bean I felt great pride in the company's commitment to customer satisfaction.  When looking for a job change I was very happy with the Dealership values that I found at Casco Bay Ford and vehicle quality of Ford Company.  What surprises me is how many vehicle search websites including True Car and Car Fax that felt they could push down dealer reputations to the public,  to gain credibility in the eyes our customers as their best resource and hope for an honest car purchase.  In reality they are using bully tactics and then laughing at the dealers as they collect money from them. (very similar to the school bully taking lunch money) These are the same dealers who made their indirect customers happy in their new car. I still have very little respect for True Car, we all saw how much they didn't care at all about the car business by letting the complaints reach the intensity and volume they did before reconsidering their position.  Car Fax has been bullying the dealers for way to long, responding to that with facts rising above the childlike behaviors will continue to show how the Automotive Business is full of people who are extremely committed and  care only about complete customer satisfaction. Dealers need return business and a great reputation to stay profitable, so if it means taking a few hits from bully's to keep customers satisfied with their selected information source then often times they will do it.  Thank you for using your time to correct this situation GREAT JOB JIM 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 29, 2012 at 7:59am

I didn't think the other blog was unfair, so, yes, I agree we are being over fair here.  It's an open forum.  

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 7:53am

What I meant Keith when I said it was less emotional is that we are expressing genuine opinions and facts without the name-calling or rants of some previous blogs on other subjects. Personally, I think we are being overly fair to CarFax being that they conspicuously appear to be overtly anti-dealer in the tone of their advertising and pricing. 

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