I caught a snippet of last week’s debate on C-SPAN around the U.S. House of Representatives bill H.R. 1737. The bill seeks two goals—to roll back the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) efforts to limit dealer reserves on finance deals, and require greater public participation as CFPB issues guidance to dealers and lenders.

In the C-SPAN coverage, I was struck by the passion of Rep. Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican and third generation dealer, who spoke in support of the bill, which passed the House by a 332-96 vote:

“We are a third-generation automobile dealer. I can tell you that it is a people business, not a white person business, not a black person business, not a brown person business, not a red person business, or a yellow person business. It is a business that is done face-to-face. I have sat across the desk from many people, lower income people, who cannot afford to get a car because they don’t have the ability to negotiate the auto loan.

 It is our business, and I am stunned by people who have never done what we have done who have somehow decided that we are racist and that we are overcharging people. We are doing exactly the opposite…Three generations of Kellys have sold over 150,000 cars. You don’t do that by cheating people. You don’t do that by being a racist. You don’t do that by discriminating against people. You do that by working with people….The ability to get these people transportation–private transportation–falls on the shoulders of those who are the dealers. We negotiate in their best interest.

 How stunning to think that somehow we are these predators who are just taking advantage of these poor people who don’t have any financial literacy. That, my friends, ultimately, is the biggest insult you could give people of color or people of gender. It is absolutely incredible to me that we would bring it to this issue.”

The House’s overwhelming support of H.R. 1737 owes in no small part to the work of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). The group has been opposed to CFPB’s efforts to limit dealer reserves since the agency’s initial guidance in 2013.

As H.R. 1737 moves to the Senate, the bill faces an uphill battle to garner enough support to overcome the threat of a veto from President Obama.

I would encourage every dealer and industry stakeholder to do what I’ll do—call your Senators and ask them to support the bill to protect the future of our industry.



On November 23rd, I’ll be on a panel webinar hosted by Automotive News and presented by Hireology. Please join me to hear advice on how to turn your hiring process into a competitive advantage. You can register here.






Let’s imagine that you’re sitting front and center, as your favorite band takes the stage.

You bought tickets a few weeks ago. You cleared your schedule. You’re pretty excited as the band cranks up the opening tune. The singer steps up to the microphone.

But the first note falls flat, followed by another clunker. You wince, and think: “WTF? I didn’t come all the way here for this!”

fireworkscar 3 Ways To Avoid Falling Flat With Today’s Vehicle BuyersI share the anecdote because it’s similar to how today’s vehicle buyers feel when they find a vehicle they like online, and contact the dealership by chat, phone or e-mail.

In most cases, the buyers engage the dealership to learn two things—whether the car they like is available, and what it will cost to purchase. In other words, they want to start working the deal without coming into the showroom.

But how do most dealers respond? Too often, it’s some variation of “Come on in!” The effect is exactly like the singer’s sour notes. It greatly reduces the buyer’s confidence in the dealer, and his/her interest in completing the deal.

My colleague, Mike Burgiss of Cox Automotive’s MakeMyDeal, says his team sees this dynamic every day. He shared a recent example from a Southeast Kia dealer:

A husband sent a chat message to ask about pricing for a Kia Soul, which his wife had recently checked out at the dealership. The sales associate’s first response: “Let’s sit down with my GM and talk numbers. He’s done crazy things when he’s with a customer.”

The buyer politely declined, and the sales associate sent another message that offered a price range, details about Kia’s powertrain warranty and a second invitation to come to the dealership. The buyer’s final response: “I understand. I will keep looking. Thanks for your time.”

Burgiss says the exchange would have gone better if the sales associate answered the inquiry with deal terms personalized for the buyer. “The example highlights a prevailing belief among dealers that customers must be in the showroom to negotiate a vehicle’s price or other terms,” he says. “Unfortunately, that’s out of step with today’s buyers. They’d prefer to work out deals from their home or office, just as they do with other retailers.”

I asked Burgiss for recommendations to help dealers better today’s vehicle buyer preferences. He shared three:

Recognize the “shopper” vs. “buyer” distinction. When customers find a vehicle they like, and take the time to view a VDP, they have shifted from simply shopping to an active stage of buying, Burgiss says. “The question for dealers is whether the information they present online facilitates the transaction right then and there,” he says. “If it doesn’t, potential buyers won’t see the signs of an easy, efficient purchase they’re looking for.”

Allow buyers to work deal terms online. Burgiss says new technologies give buyers the ability to configure a vehicle deal on a VDP and make an offer—without requiring them to provide personal information, send an e-mail or contact a sales associate. Even though buyers work deals under dealer-set parameters, the process and technology gives them a greater sense of control and self-direction.

“Dealers who adopt this process see higher levels of buyer engagement and improved closing ratios,” he says. “These improvements come because the dealers made the leap to serve buyers in the manner they prefer.”

Be authentic. When buyers take the opportunity to configure deals online, they send a signal that they expect an easy, efficient transaction, just as they would from other retailers. “If you play coy on price with these buyers, you’ll end up like the Kia dealer and lose them to a dealer who isn’t playing the traditional deal-making game,” Burgiss says.

I like this thinking on multiple levels.

By working deals online, dealers could achieve greater efficiency and satisfaction in showrooms. Customers could essentially show up, test drive a vehicle and, if they like it, take delivery. Less time equals increased customer satisfaction—and more time for sales associates to sell more cars.

Finally, this e-enabled approach to retailing vehicles creates another benefit for dealers. You’ll have less risk of hitting a bad note when it’s your turn to step up to the microphone.



vAuto: 10 Years Old—Still Inspiring, Still Going Strong


I reached another milestone in my career this week—the 10th anniversary of the day my colleague and friend, Mike Chiovari, and I huddled together in my kitchen and began the work that gave birth to vAuto. We celebrated the anniversary last night, bringing together more than 260 vAuto team members from across the country. I [...]

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Top-Performing CPO Dealer Shares Three Keys To Success


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Dealers Shine A Light On The Power Of Good People


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A Moment Of Empathy For VW Dealers


As I read the ongoing coverage of the VW scandal, I can’t help but think of the early days at Pollak Cadillac. My father and I became Cadillac dealers in 1985. My Dad had been a long-time Buick-GMC-Jeep-Renault dealer in Gary, Ind. Our new store in Elmhurst, Ill., represented our collective hopes and dreams for [...]

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A Change Of Plans For DrivingSales Executive Summit


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