Category Archives: WardsAuto

Go Mobile or Go Home

I just returned home to Atlanta after a 2-day speaking adventure in Dayton and Columbus, OH. Still traveling 200 days a year, somehow I envisioned I would have slowed down by now.

As I sat in the Delta Sky Club waiting for my outbound flight, I became acutely aware of the behavior of people around me. They suffer from a disease that’s epidemic, probably pandemic. It’s a hopeless addiction and, most likely, incurable.

Everywhere I looked, people were standing or sitting with their heads down, fully engrossed by their handheld mobile devices that connect us and give us access to virtually all of the information and knowledge accumulated in the history of our world.

Besides that, we use our mobile devices to post pictures, play games, and communicate with strangers on social networks, occasionally research products and even transact purchases.

Read the whole article on WardsAuto here.

GM Blues, Sergio Walks the Line, 97-Month Loans

In the 1970’s tear-jerker movie “Love Story” starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, the title song began with: “Where do I begin to tell the story of…?”

Well, that’s exactly how I feel as I begin to write about some incredible things that are happening in our industry.

Let’s begin with General Motors. A line from “Love Story” goes: “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Well, GM is sorry, as it faces recall after recall.

It just announced the recall of 511,000 Camaros. That’s on top of all the other vehicles. Poor CEO Mary Barra. She’s a competent and qualified leader who inherited an awful mess.

Read the entire article on WardsAuto here.

Can GM Get Its Mojo Back?

General Motors is on the ropes, knees buckling, as it takes repeated body blow.

The recalls keep coming. And the federal government’s $35 million fine is only the beginning of a series of escalating payouts before all of this passes.

Someone told me GM will be fine. After all, it is sitting on a $35 billion cash reserve. Well, I seem to recall that is almost the identical reserve GM was sitting on when Rick Wagoner took the helm not so many years ago. It took less than a decade of losses to burn through that before the automaker entered bankruptcy.

I’m not predicting that will happen again, but Mary Barra inherited the whirlwind when she became GM CEO this year. At least a decade or more of cover-ups and admitted misdirection falls on her. It’s too bad the reckoning arrived on her watch.

GM just announced an additional four recalls affecting another 2.5 million vehicles. It announced five recalls the week before that.

It is approaching 14 million vehicles and $400 million in related costs just this quarter alone, not counting litigations and additional fines. A recall doesn’t automatically mean something is wrong with a particular car, but the recurring recall message to consumers seems to be GM cars aren’t safe.

Read the full article here on WardsAuto.

Stonewall Mike Jackson Takes a Stand

Wondering what the heck was going on, my wife Debbie came running into my office with a panicked look on her face. Her concern turned to anger when she realized the yelling in the room was a celebration, not an emergency.

No need to call 9-1-1. The thunderous noise was just me cheering as I was bounced up and down in my chair as I read the latest online industry news.

Through the years, AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson and I have strongly disagreed on many industry issues. Other times, we seem totally in sync.

Although I’ve never met Jackson face-to-face; he is a major industry force. I pay attention when he talks. Sort of like the old TV ad: “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”

The article I was reading quoted him as saying AutoNation dealerships are putting the lead-generation industry on notice. The country’s largest dealership chain no longer will pay perceived high prices to third parties for leads that produce questionable results.

Read the whole article on WardsAuto here.

I’ve Seen This Movie Before

I could swear we’ve seen this movie before. Or something a lot like it.

Different actors but the same plot and basic script that has played out many times.

It’s a rerun that conjures up visions of a squirming Ford CEO Jacques Nasser testifying before Congress in 2000, and later Ford having to admit that he “misspoke” under oath when he said Ford hadn’t tested the tires of Explorer SUVs during the rollover debacle.

Call me a conservative, but isn’t “misspoke” sort of a New-Age polite liberal synonym for “lied”?

Nearly four decades in the retail automobile business and I can recall dozens of instances where manufacturers appeared to have scrambled to conceal or cover up known defects.

Read the whole article on WardsAuto here.

Wards Auto: Give Jim Farley a Break

When Shakespeare wrote “Much Ado about Nothing,” he could have been referring to the feigned outrage following Jim Farley’s remarks recently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Let me preface that Jim Farley, Ford’s global marketing chief, is my friend and one of my personal marketing heroes in our industry. Fortunately or unfortunately, he has more personality and a better sense of humor than 99% of the auto executives we deal with regularly.

When he loosens up and says what’s on his mind, he usually assumes he is in the company of friendly people who are in tune with his cordiality. In other words, you can dress him up but you can’t take him anywhere.

In chatting with the media, he may assume he is dealing with people who get what he is about, opposed to swimming in a pool of piranhas looking for sound bites and key phrases, in or out of context.

Okay, here’s a piece of what he said: “We have so much data about customers that we are not using. By the way, we know everyone who breaks the law. We know exactly when you do it because we have a GPS sensor in your car. We know where you are and how fast you’re driving.”

Read the whole article here at Wards Auto

10 Ways To Save Lincoln

Never has there been a more dedicated band of starry-eyed optimists than the surviving Lincoln dealers.

These brave souls have jumped through every hoop and swallowed every bitter pill the manufacturer served with hardly a whimper. They put up the money and built the upgraded facilities, separated their showrooms, and upped their game in anticipation of the rivers of milk and honey in the Promised Land.

Of course reality always trumps fantasy. Truth is, it just ain’t happening.

I don’t think it’s ever going to happen if Lincoln stays on the current course. Please remember, I love Ford. I regard Alan Mulally, Mark Fields and Jim Farley as personal friends. This is not mean-spirited Jim Ziegler talking here.

Read the entire article here on WardsAuto.

Why Am I Under Investigation?

No challenge in life ever seems to show up at a convenient time. In my case, when you’re scrambling 200 days a year doing speaking engagements, as well as writing and consulting, you’re already spread thin.

Never one to whine, the only answer has always been to deal with it, whatever it is.

I just came off an intensive summer schedule. I produced several successful conferences and I was a featured presenter at the National Speakers Association convention in Philadelphia.

During all of these appearances and heavy schedule, I was in intense pain. In actuality, I needed knee surgery immediately back in June when the condition became acute overnight. Honor, commitments and professional reputation mean a lot to me.

So, I made a calculated decision to schedule the surgery for September 9 after I returned from a road trip. I had been taking wheelchair rides in airports and driving electric power scooters thorough the hotels.

Two days before the surgery, I received a registered letter from the Federal Trade Commission…

Read the whole article here in WardsAuto.

Competing Spurs Overreaching

Flying home from Las Vegas again. Another successful Internet Battle Plan Conference. I’m already planning the next one. Each time these events come to a close, I find myself in a most creative and innovative state of mind.

This is when I usually reach back and find the inspiration to do new things and go to new places in my life and business.

As usual, my opening conference speech was a flow of consciousness. For more than 37 years now, I have never given a speech that was scripted, rehearsed or totally prepared.

It drives association executives and meeting planners crazy when I just walk up to the podium and start speaking with only an idea of what I am going to say. But it is easy for people and companies to misstate things.

The Ford C-Max controversy about misstated Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy is a symptom of something. I predict other auto makers are going to be spotlighted for exaggerating mileage claims and such.

Read the whole article on WardsAuto.

NADA Convention Keynote Speaker Pick Raises Ire

I’m paralyzed with disbelief that the National Automobile Dealers Assn. has scheduled Hillary Rodham Clinton as the keynote speaker at its annual convention in January.

Let me make it crystal clear: This is not an attack, but rather a criticism of an organization I love but I feel has lost its way on many levels.

Before some dealer readers knee-jerk in response to what I say, consider this: The NADA is your national organization. It is your first line of defense against legislative and special-interest threats to the franchised dealer system. We need to support and strengthen NADA, and if necessary, reinvent it.

This is not about Hillary Rodham Clinton, her philosophy, politics or qualifications. We all have an opinion of her. On my Facebook page, I posted my opposition to her speaking at the convention. That triggered nearly 200 posts in less than an hour. Liberals and conservatives, many of them dealer principals, began arguing.

Originally posted on WardsAuto. Read the whole article here.