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Bill HeardIt's a tough market.  We all know that.  BusinessWeek paints a grim picture with two recent articles, one that shows that auto sales have been sliding for 11 straight months and another that shows a shakedown for domestic auto dealers.  For dealers to avoid being a statistic, they have to take the bull by the horns, roll up their sleeves, and do something that many have not done in a long time.

They have to take chances

This doesn't mean that car dealers need to bet their flooplan money on the ponies or start buying shares in AIG.  What they need to do if they want to have a chance in this volatile automotive market is to get out of the mentality that the Internet is something on the side and really dive in head-first.  It is an investment, and one that can truly make a difference in the level of success a dealership can enjoy.

You get what you pay for

With many manufacturers jumping on board with platform-based template website providers, a couple of points come to mind.  Sure, they're free or inexpensive, but are they effective?  What good is a website, even a free or cheap one, if it does very little in the way of driving leads (and sales) to you.

The other important consideration is probably not apparent unless you look at it from a 30,000 foot view.  Why do the manufacturers get on board with these website providers and marketing companies?  Are they concerned about the wellfare of their dealers, or is it an easy way to improve the bottom line of the manufacturer regardless of the effect on individual dealerships?

Think of it like this: from a marketing perspective, these platform templates are designed to keep everyone in their own little box.  Competition with other dealerships of the same manufacturer is not a good thing for the OEMs.  They want you to compete with their competing brands, not with each other.  In an ideal world, it would seem to make sense.  In the real world, the better your dealership is positioned above both your "friends" (other dealers for the same manufacturer) and your "enemies" (other manufacturer dealerships), the more likely that YOU and YOUR DEALERSHIP will enjoy tremendous success.

Make the committment

While it is good to have a manufacturer-provided website to get their leads and listings, a dealership that wants to succeed and not fall victim to the trends will step up, take a chance, and go with the best car dealer website available to them.  Will it cost more?  Probably.  Will it pay off for YOUR dealership?

Absolutely.

Read more from Jim Bradford on this blog.

Person Jim Bradford
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