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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 Brian Pasch on June 30, 2012 at 6:31am


There is a large gap in comfort level that dealers have between traditional and digital advertising.  I just spoke with a group of dealers this week that did not believe in paid search and rather put a majority (85%) of the in budget in radio, TV, and print.  They felt that "SEO" investments were all they needed.  Dealers not using paid search are not maximizing their market opportunity, and that comes from an SEO advocate.

A case in point. With the strong increase in mobile traffic to dealer's website, a customized mobile PPC is not only needed by extremely cost effective.  Mobile SEO, forget about it. Dealers can see conversion rates (calls & leads) in the 30-40% range from Adwords.  Yet, if dealers don't feel comfortable with it, they will continue to spend on traditional which costs between $10-20 per visitor, making it 5-10x more expensive that paid search.

The challenge is how to educate our industry fast enough so that compliance starts at the top and not the Internet Director or Marketing Manager beating their head against the wall trying to convince management that they need to increase  their digital spend.

If you do the simple math, there are approx 17,000 franchise dealers and you can make the case that 5 people at the dealership should attend some training, a few times a year.  That's 85,000 people that should be trained at least once.  The attendance at "digitally focused" conferences is less than 2% of that audience, excluding NADA which does not draw more than 25% of that audience. 

So, it it this backdrop that third parties give dealers turnkey solutions on a pay-per-lead basis because they are comfortable with that.  Dealers do not think about the fact that they may be putting too much dependency on third parties nor do they realize that third parties rarely can create a customized digital strategy that solely benefits their dealership.  

Dealers are focused on selling cars.  Some have decided it is their business to have an employee (s) with  strong digital marketing and traditional marketing knowledge.  It is these dealers that I see taking market share from others and are able to inspect their vendor partners to ensure that every is delivering value to their business goals.

There are always cases today where the #1 or #2 dealer in any market is primarily using traditional marketing strategies and not much digital. For these dealers  they are just over spending to win.  I can kill a cockroach with my foot, a hammer, or a steam roller.  If my goal was just to kill the cockroach and not make a spectacle of it, I'll use my foot and pocket the rest of the money.

Walk-around videos is an example of how dealers can differentiate themselves when a consumer visits their website or searches online.  There are about 15 unique strategies that can help dealers win in the Zero Moment of Truth, and dealers who implement all of them, do a great job attracting high quality leads themselves.

As long at the Google project generates high quality leads, dealers will be interested.  It does however make a stronger case why dealers need to have their own stronger digital strategy, which includes a strong, and smarter, paid search strategy to appear over top of these ad units.

Comment by Jason Manning on June 29, 2012 at 8:07pm
When I see Google make a move like this, it solidifies my idea that the lack of inhouse effective marketing created this opportunity for them. If every dealer made five quality walkaround videos a month, how would there be room for outside experts to keep up? If each dealer enriched their inhouse efforts, they would secure their future/jobs and save so much in expense. It would be a domino effect and growth/discovery would return to our industry. Instead we leave the DOORS wide open for poor and costly results and control by outsiders. Who's at the wheel? Google now?
Comment by Jason Manning on June 29, 2012 at 8:54am
When dealers learn to market for themselves, they will pass on these lead providers (middle men). I thought the internet was designed inpart to get rid of the middle man. Why are dealers bowing to these masters? They are uneducated on what they can accomplish inhouse.
Comment by Tom Gorham on June 29, 2012 at 6:22am

Ralph, I seem to remember that Ford was experimenting with the idea of replacing dealers with company owned "Internet Dealerships" at that time... 2000. I think they were doing this down in Texas if my memory serves me correctly.  Was that FordDirect?  There still was an idea that the Internet would replace dealers.  Could it be that some big players are still nuturing that goal?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on June 28, 2012 at 10:55pm

I find it interesting and almost amusing to watch the comments about data extraction, inventory listings and related subjects... Back in 2000 when we were out launching FordDirect and signing up dealers, there was a company that handled the inventory data and how it was displayed within FordDirect's website... They were called "Digital Motorworks", and this was long before they were acquired by ADP.  I remember implementing some very creative and effective "Internet Price" listing formulas that used days in inventory to adjust online sale pricing based on days in stock and volume of units in inventory with the same model type.  I enjoyed working with the early DMi people and believe that if there is one company that Google could have selected, which would provide their new lead generating service with the greatest accuracy and credibility, it would have been DMi... Hats off to Google for selecting a business partner with so much experience serving the auto industry.

Comment by Jason Manning on June 28, 2012 at 10:13pm
Google is playing the game of identifying who the "players" are (and all their other personal information) in a particular purchasing arena and will easily identify your customers before they reach your web site or front doors with this type of "advisor" format. Their CRM will dwarf ours if we give them permission to proceed. Our CRMs will become less and less powerful as they grab our data before we have a chance to work it. It will be analyzed, sorted and directed to the lowest Local bidder. Their (eventual) Artificial Intelligence will make many dealers disappear. Are you ready to allow the consequences of this change or will you turn your back and hold your ground? The power remains in the hands of dealer managers and owners. Ultimately they will begin to win or lose, based on their decisions, collectively, to allow outside companies to control or influence their customers.
Comment by Jason Manning on June 28, 2012 at 8:45pm

I took my two year old to the Zoo a month ago.  She speaks gibberish to say the least.  My wife and I starting walking down the sidewalk in a certain direction and she didn't want to go.  She wanted to take another sidewalk/path.  She looked at us seriously, crossed her arms high above her chest, turned her back towards us and looked away with a frown, in protest, and silence.  Needless to say...she won.  She didn't need to know what we were thinking or what direction we wanted to take her.  She was protecting her experience.  She simply used her own influence.

This DMS/data and Pricing thing is no different.  Keith is right.  They need dealers and their data.  Turn your back in protest and their ideas will fade away.  This is another TrueCar moment for the auto industry.  You don't need to know why or how.  You just need to turn your back...just like my daughter did.  Simple action.

The automotive franchise industry needs to decide in the very near future how they will handle information and data.  We need to know when to turn our backs, cross our arms, and hold our ground.  This is our industry.  This is our local economies.  You don't want all your funds going to Cupertino or Palo Alto.  Local focal (its a word).

Obviously, the Manufacturers are focusing away from franchises if they are on board with this idea of pricing and marketing/advertising.  We'd better hold on to our franchise businesses/jobs.

Can someone gobble Google for us?  They're fun but annoying.

Comment by Brian Pasch on June 28, 2012 at 5:53pm


It is good to have a name associated with the DMS pull.  Dealers are under a strict NDA about the program and it has been "implied" that DMI was the third party agent in the mix, but nothing that I could confirm.  So Bravo, to that conformation.

I posted an new update and video on ADM to continue this discussion here:

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 28, 2012 at 5:19pm

DMI.  That was them.  I hope the dealers have a very restricted agreement on the data that DMI can pull AND what uses they can make of it, or at least they know what they're signing up to (awareness of what the data is and how it will be used/not used) and are comfortable with it.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on June 28, 2012 at 4:23pm

DMI is supplying Google with Inventory data... I was on the team that started that project 4 years ago... Yeah, deals like this can take awhile... Back when it was called Google "Merchant Center".  Anyways, I was with somebody from Google while in California a couple days ago and she confirmed it was DMI that Google was using for Google Cars inventory data feeds.

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