Category Archives: Auto Dealer Monthly

Join the Battle of Jericho

M-Jericho-1Little Jimmy Ziegler was only 7 years old, but I still remember it vividly, as if it were only yesterday. It was Grace Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, Fla. We were performing a reenactment of the biblical story of Joshua at the Battle of Jericho for the entire adult congregation. We were dressed in robes and head dressings made of towels. Our parents thought we were cute and there were a lot of flashbulbs going off in their Kodak Brownie cameras. I was too young to be embarrassed. I remember thinking, “This is so cool!”

Our performance went off without a hitch. We marched around the “city” made out of a packing crate seven times, singing and blowing our plastic horns. “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho … Jericho … Jericho! Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumblin’ down!” After seven times around, we stopped walking, stopped singing, and started yelling. Someone offstage pulled a string and the cardboard walls of Jericho came tumblin’ down.

Smiling as I write these words, I checked YouTube and found a video of a bunch of modern-day children marching around a cardboard city of Jericho. Sixty-three years later, they are still singing that same old song and blowing their plastic horns.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

Don’t Run, We Are Your Friends!

M-Mars-Attacks2-1Fasten your chin straps and check your seat belts, car people. The ride is about to begin, and there’s no turning back. Every party has to end sooner or later, and we’re overdue. All the signs have been flashing for months, but too many of us ignored them, and now the reckoning has arrived.

It’s sort of like watching the flaming cattle run past in “Mars Attacks!” or hearing the oboe music from “Jaws.” You can tell some scary crap is about to go down.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you. And after 41 years in the retail car business, it seems the industry has finally caught up with me. All the so-called experts, analysts, and other assorted clowns who were wearing party hats and predicting perpetual record sales a year ago have done an abrupt about-face. Now they are marching in the other direction and sounding the alarm.

Have you recently invested in a multigazillion-dollar, state-of-the-ridiculous modern facility? Did you just hear oboe music? News flash: The factory is not going to eat your loss when the shark shows up. You guys and gals have been bullied into investing by your manufacturers, some of whom skipped in and out of bankruptcy with a government handout.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

The Future Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up to Be

M-BTF3-1Excuse the bad English, but sometimes it’s just fun to say the word “ain’t.” It takes me back to my redneck roots, before I became the sophisticated, genteel socialite you know and love today.

In researching this article, I read dozens of blogs and news items talking about the future of our industry. The overwhelming assorted collection of speakers, writers, reporters, and industry hacks are solemnly predicting cataclysmic changes that will soon shake the foundations of our industry as we know it. Your paradigms will come crashing down around your ears, driven by the Millennial Rebellion, and armed with handheld devices.

Well, when it comes to future-casting in the car business, I think you’ll find I have the most impressive track record for accuracy — calling it exactly as it turned out in reality — more than just about any of the other forecasters, futurists, or industry publication editors. In other words, my stuff really happened.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

Welcome to Saturation Nation

It’s a new month and a new attitude in the car business, where sales have noticeably slowed down in recent weeks despite a rising economic tide. I keep trying to tell the industry that the two are not necessarily entwined. The issue here is good, old-fashioned saturation.

You can’t keep on pumping 60 million new and used cars annually into a market that only has about 200 million qualified buyers. About every five years, it catches up with us, and all your customers seem to be driving a new (or newer) car. There are a limited number of new customers coming into the market. It isn’t crashing, not by any means. It’s just adjusting.

Read the rest of my short article here on Auto Dealer Monthly.

Convention and Super Bowl Hangovers

M-OTPMarch2-1-2It’s almost more than my heart can stand. As I sit here late at night in my darkened office, the Super Bowl is over and I am emotionally drained and stressed. A week before the big game, Debbie and I returned home from the NADA Convention in New Orleans, optimistic but concerned. I’m still trying to digest all the things we saw and heard at the convention. There’s a lot on my mind.

I love pro football, but I didn’t watch for the majority of the season — that is, until I found out my Atlanta Falcons were favored in the NFC championship. When they beat Green Bay, I was gobsmacked with awe and amazement. If I had bet on the game, I’d have taken the Pack. But the Dirty Birds were flying high and it was game on!

The Super Bowl was an exhilarating experience for Falcons fans, at least for the first half. How do you blow a 25-point lead? The answer is simple: You get overconfident and lay down in the second half.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

The Leads Are Weak

Flash back to Alec Baldwin’s classic sales speech in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Everyone remembers when Jack Lemmon said, “The leads are weak.” That was one of the most brutally tense scenes in movie history, ending with the famous line, “Coffee is for closers.”

I have recently seen repeated instances where automotive lead provider representatives are beating up on dealers, trying to justify their lack of ROI and the few units delivered from their leads. “The leads are weak,” your managers and BDC employees keep saying. But your lead provider tries to tell you it’s your employees who are weak, not to mention unprofessional and inept.

At the risk of upsetting Alec Baldwin, sometimes the leads really are weak.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

It’s a Nerd Meltdown

M-OTP3-7-2Marketers have extended Black Friday through Sunday, which leads into Cyber Monday. The entire week following Thanksgiving has become the biggest engineered consumer shopping spree imaginable. In fact, some of the car manufacturers decided the entire month should be “Black November,” extending the sale to 30 days. Customers flooded the showrooms.

Then, just when everything was going so well, at around 10 o’clock on Friday morning, the reports started coming in on social media. The car hashtags on Twitter and private car groups on Facebook all lit up at once: VinSolutions had crashed.

The panic was immediate and widespread. If you’re not on VinSolutions yourself, you should know it’s one of the premier CRMs on the market today. I would guess that thousands of dealerships use it as a desking tool and console to run their sales departments and BDCs.

Read the whole article here on Auto Dealer Monthly.

There’s a Vacancy in Mom’s Basement

m-otp2-6-1Several years ago, I got into a friendly debate with Bill Wittenmyer from ELEAD1ONE. Bill had just performed a dynamic presentation on “How to Market to Millennials” at an Internet Battle Plan conference. In my trademark devilishly antagonistic Ziegler fashion, I told Wittenmyer that Millennials were the most worthless, lazy, know-it-all, entitlement-based, unmotivated generation in the history of the world. I said that most Millennials lived in Mom’s basement on a pullout sofa playing Xbox well into their 30s. Why market to anyone who doesn’t want and can’t afford your products?

I cracked up when manufacturers came up with “youth” vehicles like the ill-fated Scion lineup. Millennials didn’t buy them, but old people did, and every unit they moved represented an unsold Corolla. For several years, the factories and dealer groups eagerly hired every new-age jackleg quasi-consultant trainer with a snake oil program on how to sell and market to Millennials.

Read the whole article here on Auto Dealer Monthly.

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

m-otp1-6-1If you’ve never seen Meat Loaf perform live, there is a small vacuum in your life. He is one of the greatest recording artists of all time. His music, lyrics, and powerful message have been a huge influence on my life since the ’70s. His stage presence is unmatched.

All his songs evoke powerful emotions and memories, but “Objects in the Rearview Mirror” is the one that totally envelops me every time I hear it. If we are the result of everything we’ve ever experienced, then it’s fair to say we all look to the past to chart our way forward.

Meat Loaf says objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, and for the most part, that’s true. But in today’s world, old paradigms are being shredded at the speed of technology. We can no longer count on what has worked in the past as a predictor of future results.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

The Big Talent Drain

m-otp1-5-1I have been screaming it from the mountaintops for more than a decade now: “When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” Now it seems the so-called industry press is finally catching up with me. I have read several recent articles talking about the ongoing talent drain in the retail automobile business. Qualified leaders are becoming incredibly hard to find, particularly for the general manager and general sales manager roles.

These days, a GM with any kind of track record can demand stupid money to make a move. Some dealers are putting off buy-sell agreements and postponing acquisitions until they can find a qualified operator. You have to offer a substantial guarantee and a buy-in just to get them to talk to you.

You family-owned dealers need to get busy, have more kids, and send them all to dealer school. … Oh, never mind, I forgot. There’s also a real shortage of qualified instructors. (“I used to be a dealer” doesn’t guarantee good credentials.) So there’s a brain drain to go along with the talent drain, and nobody knows how to plug them.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.