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We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore

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.”

The actor playing the clerk starts negotiations for a gallon of milk at $9, makes “let-me-ask- my-manager” references and conjures up other anti-dealer stereotypes.

Allegedly, the customers were real people captured on hidden cameras. Quit it! It sure looked like actors to me, with exaggerated expressions and emoting.

Most offensive to dealers was the ad punchline: “You wouldn’t haggle for your groceries, so why do it when buying a car?”

The backlash resulted in a flash mob of angry dealers and dealership employees on social media, blogs, the phone and more. Edmunds was hit from all directions, deservedly so.

Within 12 hours of when the uproar began, Edmunds pulled the offensive ads and CEO Seth Berkowitz went into damage control.

He said it was just an attempt at humor, a playful spoof they never envisioned would offend anyone. I listened to Berkowitz telling the host of an Auto Dealer Live podcast how innocent the campaign was.

For a moment I thought I was listening to Ward Cleaver, and the Beaver would be coming home any minute now. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Edmunds has a history of offensive anti-dealer content including the highly questionable “Confessions of a Car Salesman” series of negative smear articles on its website for the last 15 years or so.

These articles are highly inflammatory and degrading to dealers. I’m not sure I even believe any of it actually happened the way it was written. Overflowing with nasty adjectives, at the very least it is a deliberate exaggeration and smear of the industry. It’s designed to incense the public.

It’s bad enough to work up consumer animosity against dealers and claim to be the “no-haggle” savior. The joke is Edmunds has lead-buying dealerships paying it to perpetuate consumer distrust.

If Edmunds is so innocent, and we in the industry really are its beloved customers partners, then why keep these articles on your website, let alone launch an insulting ad campaign?

More than that, why continually maximize the old articles for Google and the other search engines to be sure today’s consumers see it? Why have articles demeaning dealership service departments, too?

The word “haggling” is an insult and, frankly irks us, but you already knew that didn’t you?

This offensive (and aborted) ad campaign to promote Edmunds “Price Promise” comes after Edmunds field representation has received instructions to hard-sell it because Edmunds is not performing well on the dealership side of their business.

We know you’re a little desperate because your program is not seeing the dealer acceptance you planned. Could it be that Edmunds has sown distrust, and maybe dealers don’t want it dictating their prices?

This trend is growing into a revolution. There’s a growing dealer backlash against vendors that pander to the public by demeaning dealerships, then say they want to work with dealers.

The CarFax “Fox” campaign portraying a dishonest car salesman and other examples are becoming unacceptable if these companies want to continue to do business with dealers.

To their credit, TrueCar completely revised its business model three years ago and makes a concentrated effort not to publicly disparage its 9,000 dealer clients. TrueCar CEO Scott Painter announced to his entire staff that they would achieve balance.

When AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson and other top retail industry executives announced they were pulling away from third-party lead providers and building a platform to generate their own leads, I cheered.

Now, we’re hearing top auto executives chiming in and taking a stand on issues with hostile vendors.

A huge point of contention is that Edmunds and some others insist on having access to dealership management systems’ customer data.

I can see why TrueCar might need limited access to verify a sale because its business model is to only charge fees if its leads are converted to sales.

But what legitimate reason could Edmunds and others have to access your customer data? I see no reason why they demand access to your consumer data as a condition of doing business with them.

Excuse me, dealers already distrust many of these vendors, with good reason. If they can’t be trusted with our reputation why in the world would we trust them with our confidential customer information? 

Until next time car people, keep those emails, texts, phone calls, tweets and Facebook chats coming.

Jim Ziegler president of Ziegler Supersystems based in metro Atlanta, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reached at [email protected]. WardsAuto readers also may comment on this article by logging in or registering below.

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