Category Archives: WardsAuto

Why I’m Getting F&I-Certified

Jim Ziegler

Just a guess, but my observations tell me as many as half of the F&I managers working in dealerships have never attended F&I training classes.

I would go so far as to say upwards of 90% of sales managers haven’t a clue as to how to properly disclose a contract or perform the detailed work of the F&I position.

Some dealership sales managers think Gramm-Leach-Bliley was a 1960s rock group. (It is a 1999 act regulating financial information-sharing practices and data safeguarding.)

I was an F&I manager and an F&I director for several stores. During that time, I attended three major F&I Schools, including the famous Pat Ryan School on Wacker Drive in Chicago. That was intensive. We were in classes up to 10 hours a day for two straight weeks.

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

Sales Without End, Somebody Say ‘Amen’

I love optimism as much as the next guy. The last thing we need in our business are perpetually negative people.

I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I’m an opportunist, in the best sense of the word. I try to stay rooted in reality and react appropriately for whatever the world serves up. As an avowed opportunist, I’m also a realist.

I just read another extremely optimistic article predicting 18 months of increased U.S. sales that will approach 18 million new units before leveling off near the end of 2017.

In similar articles I’ve seen, every analyst, economist, and statistician weighed in along with analysts from TrueCar, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book, as well as other industry insiders and auto executives.

Within a few decimal points every one of these experts and analysts were in agreement: We’re gonna sell a boatload of cars and trucks in North America in the next two years. Party on, Garth.

Now, I’m not saying that won’t happen. I am equally cautiously optimistic that they will be right and we’ll eat cake. But the realist side of my nature kicks in and the opportunist starts analyzing possibilities and contingencies.

Read the entire article on WardsAuto here.

Sergio’s Last Stand

Forever the old-movie buff, sometimes I can’t help but relate fictional film characters to the reality of current events.

Errol Flynn was a star before I was born, but I’m fascinated by his old movies. One in particular flashes to mind when it comes to FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and his seemingly stressful effort to find another auto company willing to merge with his.

The movie I’m thinking of is the 1941 epic “They Died With Their Boots On.”

The definitive scene in the highly fictionalized film shows Errol Flynn as General George Custer and what was left of his troops fighting to the end as the entire Sioux and Cheyenne Indian nations encircle them. If you didn’t know the historical outcome, you’d get the impression Errol Flynn was going to get out of this jam.

The auto industry increasingly is getting the feeling Marchionne is up against the wall. You wonder what the outcome will be.

Wait a minute, Ziegler, Chrysler dealers are knocking it out of the ballpark aren’t they? Sales are outdistancing most of their competitors. Jeep is on fire and Ram trucks are increasing market share. I still get mad when I have to call it FCA, but on the surface it seems like Chrysler, OK FCA, is bulletproof.

Read the whole article on WardsAuto here.

Let’s Rewrite This Movie’s Script

In the movie “Jaws,” it was Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfus running around warning the citizens that the shark was still out there. Unfortunately, the town mayor dismissed them as alarmists and kept the beaches open until more of his tourists became shark food.

Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton tried desperately to evacuate the town in “Dante’s Peak,” but Brosnan’s boss (ironically named Dreyfus) overruled him. Then the volcano erupted. Oh well.

In “Volcano,” Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche couldn’t convince the city fathers that a volcano was forming in the sewers under Los Angles until they were ankle deep in lava flowing in the streets.

William Holden and Jacqueline Bisset didn’t have any luck convincing the Hotel owners the entire island was going to blow up. Guess what happened in “When Time Ran Out”?

The titles, characters and the settings are different but the storylines follow the same pattern. I can relate to it all.

Through the years, I’ve gotten the reputation for being the car-guy Paul Revere riding through the streets screaming about impending disasters in the industry. Usually my stuff goes against the grain of what everyone else is saying. I’m often ridiculed and scoffed at. I’ve been called a crackpot. Why am I still here, you may ask? Because history has vindicated me so many times.

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

GM’s Shop-Click-Drive Jumps the Curb

General Motors says its Shop, Click and Drive initiative is designed to let consumers get online information on vehicles, pricing, incentives, finance and insurance products and trade-in value. Shoppers can pick a vehicle, apply for financing, then get their car.

Despite the fact GM is building what I consider to be some of the best products in the industry, it has lost the ball in the sun with this retailing project.

Like all manufacturers, it needs to get out of retail. They’re all bad at it. Interfering with dealers has repeatedly led to disastrous results.

First, requiring all participating GM dealers to have the same cookie-cutter website vendor is totally asinine.

Dealer websites cannot be competitive nor convert consumers effectively if all of them are built, maintained and, supposedly, optimized by the same company.

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

Mexican-Owned U.S. Dealerships Raise Questions

Am I the only one who hs a fundamental problem with Nissan‘s latest move to bring dealers into the U.S. from Mexico?

Initially it’s Texas, California, and probably Florida, Illinois, Arizona, New Mexico, and then the rest of the country.

Nissan is promoting Mexican dealer operators to own and run retail Nissan dealerships in the U.S. Now, understand, we’re not talking about American dealers with Mexican heritage. No, we’re talking about foreign-owned companies that currently have dealerships in Mexico.

This is one of those times where I think there ought to be a law. I’m not sure if there is a law that prevents a manufacturer from importing foreign ownership of U.S. dealerships.

I suspect some American dealers are about to get the shaft bigtime. Through the years, I’ve written repeatedly that Nissan has a reputation of being heavy-handed with its loyal dealers with its policies, stair-step incentives and various programs.

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

AutoNation Reinvents Itself, Again

Jim Ziegler Wards Auto

For more than fifteen years we’ve watched AutoNation continually redefining their most recent redefinition.

Although I generally hold CEO Mike Jackson in high regard, watching the country’s top dealership chain reversing and reinventing itself has been amusing, probably because of the high level of seriousness and intensity those involved place on every move.

So, since the beginning I’ve found myself sneering and cheering as they launched every new initiative. You can’t argue with their successes unless you dissect their business-model efficiency to the level of each individual dealership. But Ziegler, their stock is soaring to record levels.

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore


Why did the scorpion sting the frog that was helping it across the river even though the scorpion knew that would cause both of them to drown? Because the scorpion couldn’t help it; it was just his nature.

Well, that sounds like It has stung dealers, again. It apparently can’t help it.

The online consumer car-buying service broke out its latest series of ads on YouTube depicting a grocery store cashier trying to get customers to “haggle.”

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

Serial Cadillac Buyer Miffed at GM’s Luxury Brand

Sometimes when you’re sailing in open seas on a clear star-filled night you forget to look out for icebergs.

Mary Barra is at the helm of the General Motors ship speeding through unchartered seas. She’s competent, as is first officer Mark Reuss. But I have reservations about some crew members.

A lot of industry news buzz is that Cadillac’s in store for a big upheaval. No one says what exactly that means. Well, I’ll say it.

I have reason to believe the Cadillac Div. is preparing to disenfranchise many of its dealers. Regardless of the reasoning or motivation, it’s déjà vu all over again.

A Cadillac revival began in the late 1990s and continued until around 2005. The brand was exciting and edgy, capturing a younger demographic. I personally owned nine new Cadillac Escalades, two SRXs and one of the short-lived XLR sports car in the first 12 years of the new century. (I also owned seven Chevrolet Corvettes.)

Read the whole article here on WardsAuto.

Who’s Afraid of Elon Musk?

This is man is so incredibly bright he frightens a lot of people across a wide span of different industries. We are so focused on what impact Elon Musk ultimately will have on the car business that we miss the fact he is a super-achiever and a visionary.

Don’t shoot the messenger. But I honestly believe he’s going to bust some of the dealer franchise laws in all 50 states. He ultimately will be responsible for manufacturer-direct sales in competition with franchised dealers.

Oh, we’ll be kicking screaming, gouging and biting right up until the end. But it’s coming, and after the dust settles, the industry will emerge better for it.

Who is this guy Musk anyway? He’s a South-African transplant who made his money as co-founder of PayPal in 2000. Revolutionary at the time, PayPal allowed people to pay online without using credit cards.

Read the whole article on WardsAuto here.