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True Car and ZAG - Cyber Bandits or Good for the Business?

Jim Ziegler asks...

I am hearing a lot of discussion about True Car and ZAG.  I continually scratch my head and wonder if  desperate dealers are doing the marketing limbo "How Low Can You Go?" 

Are we so bad at what we do that we have to line up and pay vendors to lose money? AND, who is giving these people access to your data that is used against you? 


Who owns these companies and what might be their ulterior motive?  Sometimes I ask questions to which I already know the answer. 


Am I wrong?

What do you think... JIM







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Jim Ziegler's Guidance and Recommended Action Plan:

Ten Areas We Need to Concentrate on to Bring This Monster to It's Knees...

  1. Government investigation of ALL Data Aggregators taking consumer information from dealers' DMS. Sadly enough, dealers who do business with TrueCar are exposed to  liability charges. Cut off all access to unecessary data, no matter who takes it from the dealers DMS and make it illegal to "resell identifiable consumer data" and "transactional data".
  2. Educate Your Fellow Dealers; If anyone takes financial transactional data, they expose the dealer that allowed it to violations, especially if it is passed on to other vendors or shared.
  3. Educate Consumers to what they're doing with their information...
    a. You buy a car from a dealer, do you really want your personal information, and maybe even your financial information, passed along and sold and shared by "God knows who?"
    b. These People Charge the Dealer $300 which the dealers have to build into the deal
    c. Your Privacy and the Security of your Information could theoretically compromise your identity if you do business a company that takes data from the dealership.
  4. Educate Investors and potential investors they could possibly be mislead if anyone is telling them this is a safe investment because of all of the dealers pushing back, associations pushing back, and government regulators in many states coming after TrueCar's business model as NOT compliant, in some cases they're saying it is Not Legal.
  5. AMEX, USAA and all of their affiliates do not want the bad consumer relations this push back is creating with their members and customers.
  6. Cancel your dealership's Affilation with TrueCar. Tell people with TrueCar certificates that YOU don't honor TrueCar and you feel the company is NOT reputable. Educate consumers as to perceived data exposure if they buy from a TrueCar dealer. Make sure that each consumer knows that using TrueCar actually increases their vehicle cost by $300 to $400.
  7. Make the dealers selling at huge losses take all of those deals. Big problem right now is too many Nissan Dealers and others are taking huge losers to get the factory money. The TrueCar reverse-auction business model will continually push those numbers down until the factory money is non-existent. Consumers need to hear from many dealers, "We don't do TrueCar"
  8. Keep calling your National and State Dealer Associations demanding they get involved and stay involved... No excuses.
  9. Get the Manufacturers into the game. If GM, Ford, Toyota, and other majors change the rules about how we advertise and do business to protect the dealers, we can cut off their ability to set pricing. So keep it up at every dealer meeting. Call your Dealer Council Members and protest to your factory reps. Tell the manufacturers, if they want showroom and facility improvements, we need the ability to make fair profits.
  10. Tell everyone you know. Educate other dealers and industry people. Watch the Painter interviews... I believe this is the first time a vendor has publicly announced they intend to bring down the dealers and hijack our business, taking our profits and starving us out with our own data. Painter has said manufacturers and dealers should go bankrupt and he, in his God-like way "will control distribution..."
    When the TrueCar-Yahoo Deal kicks in we need to stand firm and "Just Say No" we don't honor TrueCar deals.

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Comment by James A. Ziegler on April 4, 2012 at 9:24am

Great question Matt, just how many of these 'Dealer Council' members are from AutoNation Stores?  Would someone please research that? 

Comment by Matt Tucker on April 4, 2012 at 9:14am

Thanks for the reply. However, the main issue has never been fully addressed. Will TC exit all dealer DMS sytems and make it company practice to not even ask for access? You can remove painter, add some fancy lipstick, give good lip service and paint a a pretty picture, but at the end of the day, has TC really changed? Jim Z. is spot on in stating TC is the same beast, different hair cut.

Also, the past few months public emergence of AutoNation high within the ranks of TC speaks volumes to the "True" director of TC. That is something any dealer needs to fully research and take not of before inking with TC. I have not researched yet, but I wonder how many on council are AutoNation dealrships?
Comment by Michael Timmons on April 4, 2012 at 8:56am

The TrueCar National Dealer Council is comprised of dealer principles, automotive executives, general managers and also internet sales managers that are using our product daily. We tried to invite members from all areas of the business and four of the members are not TRUECar dealers. We will have our first meeting next week where we will preview to the council our new dealer portal changes and solicit feedback on how to continue to make our product better for our dealers. I have previewed our upcoming changes here at Digital Dealer with many past and current TC dealers and the response has been very positive. If you are at DD today please stop by our booth and we will preview the changes for you as well. 

Comment by Matt Tucker on April 3, 2012 at 3:14pm

I wonder if a prerequisit was your dealer group had to be a TC / ZAG dealer?  Are any of those on the council not currently a TC dealer?

And for that matter, haven't heard from old 'voice' of TrueCar, Scott Painter, in quite a while.

Comment by Debra L Bly on April 3, 2012 at 2:47pm

Gary Marcotte, Chairperson for TrueCar's National Dealer Council. said "I'm excited to chair the TrueCar National Dealer Council and I look forward to working with my fellow Members to ensure the dealers' voice is heard,"   I hope more than the dealer voice is heard I hope the dealer council is consulted before True Car sends out public messages that damage dealership reputations (for past behaviors, that for years, have not been a part of the way any dealers do business).  

Comment by Debra L Bly on April 3, 2012 at 2:26pm

TrueCar National Dealer Council list of members:  

Anthony Clemons  Internet Sales Director Friendship Hyundai
Bill Walsh Jr.  Owner/ Dealer Principal  Bill Walsh Automotive Group
Chris Birmelin  Owner/Dealer Principal  Healey Hyundai
Chris Koster  Director of Business Development
      Superior Automotive Group
Chuck Olsen (Independent Member)
       Corporate Sales Manager Boucher Automotive Group
Dan Duddridge Operations Director Cabe Toyota
David Green  General Manager Tom Williams Lexus
Gary Marcotte (Chairperson) Automotive Retailing Senior Executive
Jae Park General Manager Keyes Hyundai
Jeremy Alicandri VP of Corp. Development Habberstad Auto Group
Jeremy Beaver General Manager Capitol VW Capitol Fiat
 John Hopkins General Manager Jay Toyota-Scion
 Ken Graham (Independent Member)
        Owner OneSource Automotive Solutions
 Patrick York Chief Operating Office  Gillman Auto Group
 Phil Bonfanti General Manager Lakewood Fordland
Ray Reilly Regional Performance Manager Larry H Miller Group
Richard Cvijanovich Owner & General Manager /
       Dealer Manager Subaru Superstore / Acura of Tempe
Shaun Kniffin eCommerce Director Germain Motor Cars
Todd Reiselman General Manager Ed Martin Automotive Group
Tom Gibson (Independent Member)
       Chairman Emeritus Asbury Automotive Group
Tony Rimas Executive Vice President Red McCombs Automotive


Comment by Jason Manning on April 3, 2012 at 10:20am
Keep your data to yourself. Otherwise, your dealer future is highly uncertain.
Comment by Matt Tucker on April 3, 2012 at 9:57am

AutoNation getting more involved in TrueCar:

The former AutoNation senior VP of marketing and e-commerce heading the new TrueCar "national dealer council".

As the famous C+C Music Factory put...Things that make you go Hmmm...

This one is sure looking and quacking.

Comment by Jason Manning on April 1, 2012 at 10:06pm
I had a young vendor in the other day. She didn't know much about TrueCar when their name came up in conversation, but what she did know and say was this: "I don't know much about them, but I do know that a lot of dealers don't like them." That was it. I dropped the subject at that point to get back to work. Word of mouth at work...always. A demonstration of how word gets around. Now there are vendors leaving this message at dealer after dealer. They are doing it innocently. It has even more relevance IMO. I'm sure she has never seen this blog. She acted too innocent of the subject. She received Word of Mouth. Apparently it was endorsed to her by someone with credibility and that was good enough for her to continue to spread it, innocently.
Comment by David DeSantis on March 30, 2012 at 6:05am

@Jason, You're right on the money with your post!  The fastest sale I saw was working for a boat dealership.  Guy walked into the showroom, had a printout of the listing, walked up to the boat, and the salesperson greeted him.  He asked if there was any room in the price, and the salesman said no.  It was a price leader, so the salesman didn't lie.  The guy said ok, I'll take it, and fifteen minutes later walked out, paid cash, done deal.  The salesman was stunned, but I wasn't.  I was their IM, and I told him all the stuff you see me doing, the photos/videos, has a purpose.  I explained that, and this ties your two blog paragraphs together, the sale starts with the online listing.  That's where it's starting, not here in the showroom, but out there on the internet.  This was five years ago, and honestly, I feel validated in what I've been saying to dealers, and even real estate professionals.  The online listing presentation, if done correctly, will do all the selling for you.  In a recent Boating Industry article, they refer to these customers as "stalkers".

"According to his research, younger buyers are “stalkers” of information. They do extensive research on a product before they even enter a showroom, so when they get to a salesman’s desk, they’ve already sold themselves on the boat. They’re often ready to make a transaction and in many cases, they’re not interested in building a relationship with the salesman before writing a check. Boomers, on the other hand, are big fans of relationship building, and they also put a lot of stock in the value of a company’s credentials. They’ll often tout their business’ achievements and tell its story. And that’s when the conversation can sour."

Here's the link to the article, Boating Industry Magazine

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