Category Archives: Auto Dealer Monthly

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.

A Faster Horse

m-otp3-3-1Whether he actually said it or not, one of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes is, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” When he was the president of Ford, Lee Iacocca and his staff played off that legend, finding equine names for new models such as the Mustang, the Bronco, and even the Pinto. The Mustang became the subject of the documentary “A Faster Horse.”

Whether Old Henry said it or not, the philosophy permeated the entire industry for the next 50 years. The attitude of the Big Three in Detroit was, more or less, “The public be damned. We’ll build them and they’ll buy them.” That worked fine until the mid-’60s when the imports started coming ashore in large volumes. Better quality cars and trucks coming out of Japan and European luxury brought the Detroit giants to their knees and forced them to try something new. That’s when they actually began paying attention to consumers.

Unfortunately, as it is with all manufacturers, the lessons learned are never passed on to the next generation. As the old guard retires, the new executives often go down the same stupid paths, forever trapped in a “Groundhog Day” scenario and doomed to repeat their forebears’ mistakes.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

Strangers in the Mall

M-OTP4-2-3I was sitting in a big comfortable chair in the mall just outside the second-level entrance to Macy’s department store. I was extremely lucky to have secured one of the big comfortable chairs, because every last one of them was occupied. There was a family of five sitting on the sofa, an old man taking a nap, and, in the chair next to me, a well-dressed, middle-aged man playing with his smartphone.

This is the place wives park their husbands while they shop. Most of us have that bored look on our faces that says there’s some place we’d rather be. I played with my own phone for a while until I had seen every post on Facebook and LinkedIn, cleaned up my emails, messaged a few people and even took a selfie. By that point, I was completely bored and out of options to entertain myself. The guy next to me appeared to have reached the same point as he put his phone in his pocket. I said, “I guess your wife dumped you here, too.” He laughed and the conversation began.

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

You Can’t Handle the Truth

M-OTP4-1-2You’d have to have been in a coma since 1991 if you haven’t seen that clip from “A Few Good Men.” Tom Cruise is grilling Jack Nicholson in court. “I want the truth!” says Cruise, in the role of the smarmy lawyer. Nicholson, playing a battle-hardened Marine colonel, explodes. “You can’t handle the truth!” Classic.

No matter what you think about Jim Ziegler, you’ll seldom find anyone who is neutral about me. … Although even my staunchest detractors will agree that my industry forecasts and predictions about the car business have, for the most part, been extremely accurate. I have often made the right call when every other expert and authority in our industry was saying the opposite. History has always seemed to vindicate me when something I predicted rubbed people the wrong way.

Read the whole article here on Auto Dealer Monthly.