What's The Real Issue with Cars.com?

James Ziegler
First of all Eric, I love you man but do your homework before you sit down at the keyboard. You ask if we know if they're really doing this? THEY ADMIT IT HERE ON THEIR WEBSITE... WITH A WEAK-ASS EXPLANATION http://dealeradvantage.cars.com/da/2013/04/why-cars-com-engages-shoppers-beyond-the-lead/ And, if they're shipping your leads elsewhere, yes, it is an issue. Glad they're not sponsoring my events so I don't have to go soft on them.
Dennis Galbraith
Thanks for airing this out in an objective forum Eric. The issue comes down to who owns the Vehicle Details Page (VDP)? The answer is whoever owns the website. That’s not easy to say. When I oversaw the advertising products at Cars.com, I recognized that dealers were going to feel that once the shopper was on the VDP that was the dealer’s page and everything about it should be focused on encouraging the customer to make contact with the store. Frankly, I would not have made this move. However, there is an argument to be made that an inventory publisher serves dealers best by providing the best possible shopper experience, even if some dealers don’t like the tactics involved. Whether or not this latest practice truly enhances the shopper’s experience and increases the likelihood they will by a vehicle from someone is debatable, but there is no debate about who gets to make that decision. Some dealers may calculate their break-even point on the cost per VDP is now lower for Cars.com, but by how much? $0.02 per VDP? That doesn’t change the fact that they should continue buying the product if the price is below the breakeven point and stop buying it if it is not. To maximize profitability, it’s about objective mathematics, not feelings or philosophy. Consultants who are dedicated to helping dealers hold vendors accountable will help dealers with the math. Whipping folks into an emotional frenzy is in no one’s best interest except the ringleader doing the whipping.
Eric Miltsch
Jim, 1st, I've done plenty of homework. 2nd, it's a new world out there, one doesn't need to be sitting at a keyboard anymore. 3rd, Of course we know its happening - my question is for the dealers; do THEY know if it's happening to THEM. It's not happening to everyone. And as for your reference about my thread inferring that I need to go soft because they're a sponsor of our events is a BS passive comment. I'd rather discuss the issue from both sides of the table, raise the awareness about the real issues that matter for dealerships - such as inventory management, lead processes, etc - rather than simply throwing a Molotov cocktail and scaring everyone.
James Ziegler
Guys I don't think I want to get into a debate with two Driving Sales employees when it is obvious to me that you not only drank the Kool Aid, you've opened your own Kool-Aid stand When you begin to tell people that the dealer doesn't own the lead they paid for that lands squarely on their specific-advertised-paid for unit... and then you tell me Cars.com or anyone else has the right to send them a list of other dealers cars within any amount of time... I have to believe you're squarely in their camp and not looking out for the dealership's interests. Cars.com is overly expensive to start with... and now they're diluting the value of their leads, creating confusion with the customers, maybe interfering with working deals because they don't know whether or not that dealer has a deal working. The first words of their follow-up say "If you haven't scheduled a test drive, here's some more cars to consider". They don't know what they're interfering with. AND, let them look you in the eye and tell you they're not sending your inventory to TrueCar, or Rewd Bumper or worst of all CarGurus.com... the most anti-dealer site in my opinion to ever come along. CarGurus- They actually tell consumers the dealers unit is a bad buy, based on their own self-serving unknown criteria. If Cars.com is shipping your inventory to all or any of these other vendors that is an added threat to the dealers and the consumers. Thirdly, have they ever resolved the issue with Road Loans sending your customers on your unit to other dealers if they click the Road loans button? If you are NOT a member of Road Loans, do they still ship your customers, on your specific paid advertisement to another dealer competitor and suggest a similar car? No Molotov Cocktails here, I am just not sucking up with vague generalities and telling people the vendor owns the paid lead. AND I am not insinuating these things are not happening that we know are happening as you suggested which made me suspect of this thread in the first place.
Eric Miltsch
Jim - that was clearly my point. I started a discussion, not a debate; it doesn't matter who the people are participating here. Nobody is sucking up to Cars.com. There is no need for us, or anyone else to do so - while there is also no need for flaming discussion either. I just got off the phone with a dealer with submitted 10 different leads and has yet to receive any additional solicitation from Cars.com. My original point was that these activities are not happening to EVERY dealer. I've already acknowledged that it is in fact happening - and my own personal opinion is that I like that it's happening. And just because someone doesn't agree with your ethical and moral beliefs of how Cars.com should be treating the leads doesn't infer that someone is in Cars.com's camp - that's like saying that people who are against torturing prisoners are supporters of terrorism. My point is simple - for the dealers: 1. Do your own testing & submit some leads to find out what's happening. 2. Don't want your inventory distributed to other sources, then simply request that your feed be shut off ASAP. 3. Clean up your own processes with regards to inventory pricing, merchandising and lead management - nobody has all of these items in place to the point of perfection where they should be wasting any additional time worrying about the decisions Cars.com is making with their business model. 4. Still not happy with everything at the end of the day and need to find an excuse for your dealership's shortcomings? Then simply cancel your Cars.com subscription. I'm sure your competitors will love that you left.
James Ziegler
Okay Eric now that we have everyone's attention, the truth is they are still in the process of rolling it out and NOT all areas are experiencing it yet. It is not acceptable to 99% of the dealers I speak and you know I talk to a lot of dealers and I come from, as do you a real dealership background. Cars.com has traditionally been the most dealer-friendly vendor imaginable BUT they've gone to the Dark Side. I am not happy to see what they're doing and doggedly sticking to. They are churning and regurgitating leads and reissuing them to other dealers after the dealer that paid for the lead is totally screwed over and double-crossed, and they do send your inventory to other sites, its all about revenue and all of this phony talk about what's good for the customer is a calculated smokescreen designed to misdirect the dealers.

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