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The last time I wrote about specific dealership practices online, I got tremendous negative feedback from the dealer community about calling out a dealer by name. Fortunately, this time someone else started the ball rolling and I thought it was important enough to volley back.
Ben Popken is the founding editor of Consumerist, and runs Stealerships, Jalopnik's aptly-named consumer protection section. In an article he posted on Jalopnik, Ben shares how College Park Hyundai was marking up Door Edge Guards $1,495 when other dealers in the market were so much more realistic.
Ben called a few local dealerships, including my client Pohanka Hyundai of Marlow Heights, to compare costs. Pohanka told Ben the door guards were $100 at their store and could not explain the price demanded by College Park Hyundai.
Commenting about the markup practice, Popken closes he piece with these words.
"With such a huge markup, College Park is able to advertise a lower base price and then make up for it with an inflated markup. Interestingly, on their Google review page there is a comment listed as being from the dealership owner that says, "We are under new mgmt as of Jan 2010. While we sell 140+ vehicles and service 800+ vehicles per month, we have work to do!" Well, if by "work" they meant cranking out a 200x markup for an ancillary part, then they are crushing it."
The Internet is a great tool for research and comparison shopping tools. Dealers need to understand that "bait and switch" marketing practices, although still very popular, will be the downfall of dealers over time. It will impact their online reputation greatly.
All of us know dealers that advertising new cars in the newspaper at deep deep discounts. The fine print says that the price is based on a series of rebates and incentives, that in all probability no single consumer can qualify for.
You seen them:
The result of a consumer being promised a low price on the phone, only to walk into the dealership to get a much higher price will create an online stream of ill will that is not easily removed. Here is an actual Google Places review for a dealership that practices this tactic:
"I can't stress enough how you should avoid this place. Unless you want to be fooled, bullied around from sales person to sales manager, only to find out that the price they advertise on the internet is completely phony, as it considers every possible discount, for which you will never qualify. Or, do you think you can be in the armed forces, working for UPs and Delta Airlines, have a current car lease, all at the same time??? So the price went from $34k advertised on their own website to a MSRP of $40.5k, that would come down to a mere $37.5 with the discounts I "qualified" for... A complete SCAM, with shady and rude people, that forced me get up and say I was leaving, only to hear, "Where are you going?" and I said "Home!" and heard back "That is some way of negotiating"... They even asked me, since I am a salesman myself, if I told my customers "all the truth" when advertising... I said, this is not advertising, This is misleading your consumers!!! Their answer: "Haven't you heard of creative advertising?". So, if you go there... Good luck."
Is this the type of information you want consumers to read in the Zero Moment of Truth?
These two examples should be a hard wakeup call for any business owner that thinks they can treat people poorly or try to pull a fast one because they can.
Does your dealership understand the power of transparency?
Brian Pasch, CEO
PCG Digital Marketing