It comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve been around the automotive digital space for a long time that the OEMs want dealer data and the pervasive third parties that run large-scale digital programs aren’t around for the dealers’ sake nor benefit. There’s a deeper level, though… how fraught these digital programs are themselves, even when you consider how fraudulent the mark-ups and hiding of unbiased metrics are.

What’s wrong is the reaping of the dealerships, rather simply saying “you have three website companies to choose from rather than anyone you choose”. And the crazy thing, again, is that the OEMs are none the smarter or have general wherewithal on the programs, data, analytics, organic, tier 3 paid search, leads (and hand-raisers, jeez) or social media. With regard to the last one, have you seen how many dealers’ social streams are basically hijacked, duplicate content with disgusting returns?

For those who don’t recall (or prefer to remember), automotive online started en-masse in 2005 with a few OEM-mandated programs happening in the early following years. How is it, then, that dealers are still waking up to the idea of digital investments? In 2009 we had a difficult time educating one of the largest import-brand dealers in the Southwestern US  that a $2,000+/month investment in their website was more than acceptable, compared to their $699/month required website. It’s 2018, we won’t even have that discussion today and stopped asking many program-heavy dealers what their investments are since nearly all are under-vested in their most important asset: their websites (yeah, that thing that gets more traffic than any other part of your business).

There are more properly-built and updated website providers out there, however it doesn’t mean that you have to choose one of them because of co-op dollars. No dealer (or general manager) can make an effective argument about $10,000-20,000 given up per month in co-op when they can end of selling 20-50 more cars per month with a better platform. Even the factory wakes up after hard-balling a dealer who’s “not playing in the approved digital sandbox” because they can’t ignore numbers (newsflash: OEMs care more about units than which website platform you’re on -or your dealership-…really!).

Alas, it seems that more and more dealers (we’ve seen this before…about 10 years ago) are willing to give up digital results to make the factory happy and/or more willing to give up any possible advantage they can have over data sharing (which the 3rd party consulting first have consistently used to level the paying field).

It all comes down to this: If we remember correctly, wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who once said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: We’re from your OEM’s digital department and we’ve here to help”…


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