Share your automotive expertise

2 Write a Blog Post

Opinion: As R.L. Polk considers a sale, CARFAX still faces major challenges.

By Jeremy Alicandri on Mar 16, 2013

REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: This article is based on the opinions of the author and nothing contained herein should be construed as a matter of fact.

At least from my perspective, it seems 2013 is proving to be a difficult year for the folks at CARFAX. After years of being the nation’s top VHR provider, the company is facing serious challenges. Since I began blogging about CAFAX, there have been major developments. These developments include a controversial Automotive News story, a potential anti-trust lawsuit seeking treble damages, and a 20/20 investigative report that nationally portrayed CARFAX’s reports as misleading. But wait! There’s more! CARFAX’s parent, RL Polk, announced the company is for sale!

Last year, I published near 10 pages of material outlining what I felt was wrong with CARFAX’s business model. However, I’m going to keep this post short by just providing my opinions and insights of some of the more recent developments:

  • 20/20 Story – While I enjoyed the investigative journalism, from an industry expert’s perspective, I didn’t learn anything new. Both CARFAX/AutoCheck have limitations –neither report is infallible. However, the 20/20 report substantiated(opinion) my November 30 opinion to OEMs where I wrote: “I feel the OEMs are distracting their branding efforts from the reliability of their own certification programs and instead attempting to substantiate the reliability of their vehicles by promoting their association with CARFAX. This is a dangerous practice for OEMs since associations with CARFAX will also associate the OEM’s brand with issues that plague CARFAX.” Ok, so now what? In my opinion, I believe this 20/20 story is just another wake-up call for the car manufacturers to better brand their own Certification programs and reduce their dependence on co-branding with companies like CARFAX.
  • Potential Anti-Trust Lawsuit – Leonard Bellavia is building momentum for an anti-trust lawsuit against CARFAX. From what I understand, Bellavia is claiming that CARFAX used exclusive agreements with OEMs and other companies to force dealers to pay premium charges for VHR reports. Apparently, dealers who join Bellavia’s suit are seeking treble damages. I won’t provide legal advice, but Bellavia provides detailed information on his suit on this website: (scroll down for the red CARFAX box)
  • R.L. Polk For Sale (or IPO) – While a company executive is quoted as stating: “There was no catalyst that made this happen,” I naturally have my opinions as to why Polk is looking for a new home. Given AutoTrader’s canned automotive IPO, and other factors, it’s my opinion that Polk’s announcement is probably more about finding an exit plan for its owner Stephen Polk vs. an actual IPO. I’m not sure if Mr. Polk wants to retire or continue with his business, but I don’t feel there is Wall Street IPO appeal for this niche company – especially with all the looming issues. But I do feel Polk could be a great acquisition for a big data firm. With that said, I’d like to add that I never met Mr. Polk, but I did have one interaction with him via e-mail that left me with a favorable impression. I do know people who describe him as a friendly and classy industry veteran.


If you want to read a more detailed analysis of my coverage of CARFAX, and related articles, below is a timeline of events that started on October 3, 2012 with my first published CARFAX post:

CARFAX Timeline:


*The dates indicated above are right. Any correction, or update to a published post on will change the date on the post’s page, thus causing a discrepancy if you compare both. So please refer to the original dates posted above.


I did like the fact that the consumer advocate on 20/20 rightly mentioned that consumers should still check out the vehicle (i.e. their mechanic). I know that for years I have volunteered to drop the vehicle off at the customers mechanic so it can be checked out and almost none of them take me up on it. I'm sure it is part trust in our operation, but it is also laziness on the consumers part, which is what i see with Carfax. Instead of accepting the Carfax "guarantee" and its many holes. He should have mentioned getting a guarantee in writing, not unlike a certification warranty. On the very rare occasion that a vehicle slips through the crack, the increased trust and sales would more than make up for the hit of a repurchase. MN Dealer

Mar 19, 2013

CarFax has the best system to address concerns associated with negative online entries in the CarFax database. If you have a concern that a specific CarFax entry (in their database) is inaccurate then address the issue on their website by clicking on the "Data Correction Form" link on their home page. They will investigate the issue and communicate with you until a resolution is reached. Their resolution staff is the best in the industry and their system to resolve these issues is exceptional. Yes, there are errors in both CarFax and AutoCheck information databases but the resolutions can be reached if you spend the time to address the issues. There are more positives then negatives associated with CarFax and their staff will genuinely attempt to help you if you give them a chance.

Mar 19, 2013

I think the main issue with the 20/20 report was that the consumer could not detect the issue because it was not in the CARFAX database.

Mar 20, 2013

As always - fantastic coverage jeremy. Looking forward to seeing you next month in NY!

Mar 20, 2013

Thanks Jared!

Mar 21, 2013

Excellent coverage...keep it coming. Thanks.

Apr 4, 2013

Comments 1 - 6 of 6

You must be logged in to comment

Login Create an account

Add your comments:


Jeremy Alicandri's Recent Posts

Related Posts

  • The State of Automotive Digital Advising: More Vanilla, Please!

    Anyone who regularly reads out blog knows a few things. One, we tell it like it is. Two, we educate from fact and passion, not from the heart of from the pocketbook. Three, we do and cover what nobody else does across the entire scope of services. Four, we affect a sliver of the industry through the automotive social sphere. While none of these aspects alone are uniquely significant, it becomes more so when you consider what dealers are receiving from “advisors” today. Recently we had a high-line dealer visit that also included a regional sales director from the OEM, which is a rare pleasure. They wanted to review the new digital assessment package from their third-party partner. While we were extremely happy that the digital marketing consulting company that had previously provided in-field services for the OEM and their dealers was no longer doing so, and there was clearly an improvement in the standard deliverables, frustration quickly set in. In reviewing the report, it was ...Read post

  • Auto/Mate Announces Open/Mate Integration with StoneEagle F&I and Service Applications

    Albany, N.Y. – October 12th, 2015 – Auto/Mate Dealership Systems announced today that StoneEagle has completed integration with Auto/Mate's Dealership Management System (DMS). Auto dealership groups using Auto/Mate's DMS and StoneEagle's web-based applications will benefit from seamless and real-time data updates in both systems.   "Auto/Mate believes that the more technology vendors we integrate with, the more choices our dealers have, allowing them to lower costs and increase efficiencies," said Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate. "Our Open/Mate program offers vendors an affordable and easy way to integrate their applications with Auto/Mate's Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS)."   StoneEagle offers a range of web-based applications to help dealers manage performance, accountability and production across their F&I and service departments. StoneEagle solutions are designed to automate manual tasks, deliver accurate information, increase profitabil...Read post

  • Differentiate--or Die!

    Anyone can buy a white Chevy Malibu from any dealership, so how do you get people to buy from your dealership? If you think you must offer the best price, think again. According to marketing gurus Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin, co-authors of the book Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition, the most successful businesses differentiate their brands, but not on price.   I know many dealers out there will disagree with me. When I was a General Manager I had this argument with the owner all the time. "If you treat the customers better, whether it's in sales or service, they will pay more for the car." The owner believed we had to be more competitive on price, but I saw it time and time again. Customers bought from us because they liked the way they were treated, not because we offered them a rock-bottom price.   So, how do you decide what your dealership's differentiator is? Here are key tips from experts Trout and Rivkin:   Don't Differentiate on Price, Qua...Read post

  • Helion Automotive Technologies Saves Mossy Auto Group Over $400K by Upgrading IT Infrastructure to 21st Century Specifications

    Timonium, MD -- September 28th, 2015-- Helion Automotive Technologies, a leading provider of IT solutions for auto dealers, today announced that Mossy Automotive Group has saved over $400,000 since implementing the Managed Service Provider's (MSP) data and network recommendations. The San Diego based 14-store automotive group attributes the majority of its savings to switching data and phone carriers, and upgrading its entire information technology (IT) infrastructure.   Like many auto groups that have grown gradually over the years, Mossy Automotive Group's IT infrastructure was not always a high priority. “We have 1,200 employees using over a thousand PCs,” said John Epps, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Mossy Automotive. "For years we added equipment on an as-needed basis, so our network was a literal hodge-podge of PCs, operating systems, network connections and off-the-shelf software."   In 2013, the auto group was expanding at such a pace that the internal IT staff ha...Read post

  • Auto/Mate Presents "How to Create Customer Loyalty Without a Customer Loyalty Program" in an Automotive News Webinar

    Albany, N.Y. – September 28th, 2015 – Auto/Mate Dealership Systems ( announced today that its president and CEO, Mike Esposito, will be presenting a FREE webinar titled "How to Create Customer Loyalty Without a Customer Loyalty Program." The Automotive News webinar is scheduled for Thursday, October 15th, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. EST.   "Many dealers rely on customer service training and loyalty programs to build loyalty, but the fact is your customers will never love your company unless your employees love your company," said Esposito. "The best way for dealers to create long-term, profitable growth is to focus first on employee satisfaction, which will naturally increase customer loyalty. In this webinar I'll be teaching dealers how to create a great place to work that both their employees and customers will love."   Jim Treece, News Editor at Automotive News, will moderate the webinar that covers the following takeaways:   1) The proven correlation betw...Read post

  • Still Ignoring The “C Word” Will Cost You

    The "C Word". You know, that word. The one that makes dealership executives' skin crawl, makes sales people laugh, has trainers' mouths drool and absolutely keeps your store from its true potential. It even has female staffers cringing, question working at the dealership. Say it with me....CULTURE. Ignored by only the bravest of souls who understand the kind of wrath and trial it brings. Changing culture takes balls. It takes work. It takes time. And it takes an unrelenting focus as well as undying commitment. We all know it, so why do so few do it? Weak leadership? Lazy management? Not necessarily. Mostly it's due to the lack of understanding what the intermediate goals during and wins at the end of the effort are. You know...not starting with the end in mind. Culture, by definition, is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation ...Read post

  • Celebrating the Aloha Spirit, From Our 'Ohana to Yours (and a Brief Tutorial on Hawaiian Values)

    On September 15th, Auto/Mate Dealership Systems celebrated Hawaiian Day! Many of our employees tell me Hawaiian Day is one of their favorite company events. The day started out with myself and Ken Rock, Corporate Training Manager, wearing a grass skirt and "coconut shell" bra, greeting employees with flower leis as they arrived at work.   Employees were encouraged to wear island wear and festivities included a catered lunch and virgin pina coladas. Later in the afternoon, a Kona Ice truck arrived to serve shaved ice treats.   So, what's the point of sharing this? Because there's more happening here on Hawaiian Day than just eating and the shaking of coconut shells. The reason I love Hawaiian day is because I view it as an opportunity to strengthen our company's core values, and to show our employees an appreciation for what they do every day.   Core values are important because they are the essence of a company's identity, and also the essence of the individuals who work at th...Read post

  • The Dislike Button: Facebook Is About To Open Pandora’s Box

    According to Business Insider, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today that Facebook is working on - finally - implementing a feature users have been clamoring for for years - the “dislike” button. In the interview, Zuckerberg explained that “what [people] really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment” and that the addition of the dislike button was to allow users “an option to express feelings other than ‘liking.’”   While his sentiment - and goals - are good, I believe that Facebook is about to open a big giant can of whoop-ass. This action could easily become the equivalent of opening Pandora’s box - or Face-mageddon.   Let me explain.   I get it. Someone posts about a death in the family, an illness, an injury or just a bad life experience. We’ve all seen those and hesitate to interact using the “like” button ‘cause who wants to “like” someone’s tragedy? Facebook’s thought-process probably followed the ...Read post