Category Archives: Auto Dealer Monthly

It’s a Nerd Meltdown

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Watch Out for Grizzlies

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M-Grizzly2-1Life really sucks if you’re a salmon in the Upper Northwest. They’re just trying to get home to start a family. As if the journey wasn’t perilous enough, a long line of grizzly bears is waiting to eat two out of three of them before they get upstream. Poor bastards.

Operating a dealership today is sort of like being a salmon. You’re just trying to make a decent living and provide for your family, but there are grizzlies everywhere, all trying to consume two out of three of your hopes and dreams.

Unwelcome Competition

For years now, I’ve predicted it, said it in speeches and written it in literally hundreds of articles, blogs and social media threads. Now they’ve actually said it and their agenda is out in the open. In a recent webinar on the 2016 Global Automotive Outlook, a person with presumably extensive retail automobile sales experience and qualifications, Lisa Whalen, says manufacturers are probably set to launch more than 100 online digital stores globally in 2016.

Whalen is a vice president of Frost and Sullivan, a market research company that touts themselves on their website as “a growth partnership company focused on helping our clients achieve transformational growth as they work through an economic environment dominated by accelerating change, increasing risk, and the powerful disruptive impact of the conversion of new business models, disruptive technologies, and megatrends in their industry.”

Read the whole article here on AutoDealerMonthly.

Alpha Dawg Down

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M-OTPMay4-2I have visited five cities in three weeks, traveling to the North, South, East and West through some of the worst and most erratic weather of the year. I went from warm weather with pollen raining down everywhere to the snow, cold temperatures and wet, windy weather of the Northern reaches and then back down South again.

I’m happy to be back home in Atlanta, but for more reasons than one. Don’t ever take your health for granted, my friends. Sudden illnesses can deliver a knockout punch.

I didn’t think much about the sniffles, chest congestion and coughing when it started. I blew it off as pollen allergies or maybe a head cold. In any case, I was busy. I was in Lake Charles, La., working with a dealer and dealership I hold in the highest regard, Billy Navarre Chevrolet. Picture this: There are 50 sales representatives and managers in my class. I’m in front of the room sniffling and occasionally coughing and sneezing, all loaded up on over-the-counter meds.

Toward the end of the second day, the symptoms were intensifying. I finished up, collected the check, got in my car and pulled out in the direction of the hotel. I didn’t get far. I stopped, picked up my phone and searched for the nearest hospital.

Read the whole article here on Auto Dealer Monthly.

We’re Selling Cars Like Candy Bars

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M-OTPcandy1-1Party on, Garth! Light-vehicle sales showed a year-over-year increase of 8% in February. Of course, that’s coming off of a January in which winter storms ground sales to a halt. Still, statisticians, industry experts and analysts are predicting the possibility of a record-breaking 18.9 million-unit sales year.

Of course, that’s assuming nothing goes wrong with the economy, the delicate balance of diplomacy in China, North Korea and the Middle East, the presidential election or any of a thousand other variables that could slam the brakes on momentum without a moment’s notice. But until something happens, we’re selling cars like candy bars. Party on, Wayne!

Personally, I have never been so busy and so optimistic in life and business. In a few days, Debbie and I will be flying to Houston for the 19th Internet Battle Plan Conference. After that, I’ll be in three dealerships in two weeks, training and consulting from Tallahassee to Staten Island to Lake Charles. Then I’ll switch suitcases and fly back out to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in Vegas and then, a couple dealership visits later, I’ll be at Dealer Summit in sunny Tampa in May. You don’t even want to see my calendar. I’m booked clear to November.

Read the whole article here on Auto Dealer Monthly.