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Let’s Rate the 60-Minute Car Deal

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Most people want a quality dealer relationship more than an express purchase, says DealerRater CEO Gary Tucker.

Are 1-hour car deals do-able? That’s a discussion topic in an age when vehicle shoppers, especially young ones, are keenly sensitive to time spent at a dealership.

Hypotheticals aside, the current reality is this: In rare cases, car buyers can get in and out in an hour. That’s if everything is aligned just right, including quick price agreeing, pre-approved financing and no trade-in valuation squabbling.

An express deal like that requires customers doing a lot of front-end work online and is premised on a dealership’s website offering advanced-technology features such as online financing and trade-in appraisals.

In most cases, car buying takes longer than the time it takes to watch a couple of sit coms. That’s not necessarily bad because most people aren’t looking for auto retailing’s Holy Grail of a 60-minute purchase.

So says Gary Tucker, CEO of DealerRater.com. He points to his firm’s user survey indicating buyers show more interest in how a dealership treats them opposed to how fast they can bolt from the place.

“We asked them which was more important, speed or relationship,” he tells WardsAuto. “Three-fourths said relationship.”

An important distinction: Nobody wants to needlessly camp out at a dealership, whether the time involves protracted price haggling or foot-tapping while waiting to see a busy finance and insurance manager.    

“There’s a threshold of pain,” Tucker says. “No one wants to spend a day at the dealership. But the quest for a compressed experience might be the representation of a vocal minority.”

DealerRater is the world’s largest website of its kind. About 35,000 dealer reviews a month are posted. The website has tallied 1.6 million consumer reviews that many shoppers use as third-party sources.

Tucker, a 30-year veteran of the auto industry, this year filled DealerRater’s newly created CEO post. He was a J.D. Power marketing vice president before that.

DealerRater taps into a form of human expression that’s as old as auto retailing itself: people talking about their car-buying experience, whether it was good, bad or ugly.

“It is a digital version of the conversation your mom or dad had with the neighbor in the driveway or across the fence,” Tucker says.

DealerRater encourages consumers to do more than just give star ratings. It’s interested in old-fashioned storytelling. That makes for rich content.

“Our comment section has a 25-word minimum,” Tucker says. “So we get a story. We don’t just get ‘Jim was great.’ Instead we get ‘Jim helped me get a loan, did a good job giving me product information, assisted me in selecting a vehicle and was fair on the trade-in.’”

Ironically, even though many dealers bridle at the idea of publicly posted customer critiques, most dealer reviews are positive.

For those that aren’t, DealerRater offers a remediation process to its dealer clients. They are notified of a bad review and get a chance, either publicly or privately, to resolve the problem behind it.

“If someone posts a follow-up review saying, ‘They screwed up, but they fixed it,’ people who read it respect the dealer for that,” Tucker says.

So a bad review can end up as a good thing, if it’s handled well.

Yet, a fear factor remains for some dealers who aren’t thrilled with social-media ratings.

“There’s definitely a distribution curve,” Tucker says. “Leading-edge dealers are more progressive when it comes to acceptance of customer reviews. A new best practice is to embrace full transparency.”

That's why many dealers urge customers to post reviews, although presumably those retailers are expecting positive write-ups. It’s hard to imagine a dealership staffer giving a DealerRater “rate-us” card to a bad-news customer. 

DealerRater uses screening technology to flag bogus review submissions from people posing as customers. Those types can range from disgruntled former workers rapping a store to current employees praising themselves.             

But there’s nothing really to stop a customer on a rant for whatever reason. A fear among dealers is that a cantankerous customer with a major attitude levels a bunch of questionable accusations for any and all to see.

Tucker says review readers usually are savvy enough to separate genuine criticism from unbridled attacks. “Reviews that come across as irrational are seen for what they’re worth. Rational reviews carry the most weight.”

A computer programmer founded DealerRater in 2002. He did so less from inspiration and more from exasperation. He had a bad dealership experience.     

sfinlay@wardsauto.com

Discuss this Blog Entry 10

on Dec 18, 2014

Surveys are useless when it comes to auto retail. Most consumers rail about negotiating when asked in a survey. But further scrutiny indicates they really DO want to "play the game." They just want to be guaranteed a "win."

on Dec 18, 2014

Consumers resent dealer tactics designed to help them make gross profit but have no problem using their own tactics to get the best deal.

The FTC wants auto buyers to be able to shop and compare. Perhaps that's who angry car shoppers should be mad at. If the FTC wanted everyone to pay the same, they could arrange for that. I wonder if that would make consumers "happy?"

on Dec 21, 2014

Consumers absolutely hate paying more than anyone else, unless they is a specific reason for it that suits them. I believe you are completely wrong about wanting to play the game. Only a few are interested as they have a need to tell others how much better deal they got than their peers. I know many people that delay purchasing a car not just because of a major investment but because the whole process is uncomfortable due in part to past practices as well as current practice of "games" initiated by many dealers. Quite often those who are most negative about any step to add transparency to the car buying deal, are those that make profit at the game of misdirection. I am absolutely convinced that a dealer that provides a simple, straight up deal, will outsell a competitor that does not in the long run.

on Dec 23, 2014

HUH? Consumers don't play games? Negotiation is a game. If they don't want to negotiate let them pay MSRP.

FLASH! The purpose of selling cars is to make gross profit.

The record is clear. Dealers who adopt a One Price policy CAN sell cars and make money when times are good. But who really profit are those One Price dealer's competitors who use the One Price strategy against them. Consumers take the One Price to the competition and buy from them. Recall The Ford Collection that failed after losing hundreds of millions of dollars? Saturn ring a bell?

Have you ever retailed cars?

on Dec 23, 2014

I think your reply supports my comments to the very core. Unfortunately you simply can't, or refuse to see it. If you see negotiation as a game then you miss my entire point. You will probably continue to make a profit but in a more chaotic way than required. I am a consumer. I want to buy a car. I will not pay MSRP. I will pay market value, as I choose to do for almost every purchase I make. If you cannot provide me with a reasonably straight forward and simple retail experience, I will take my business elsewhere (and I have). Perhaps focusing some of your negative energy into more positive retail experience could prove to be beneficial. PS. I never have retailed cars, but if all other options dry up, perhaps I could give it a shot. I would just need to be less open-minded to meet your level.

on Dec 22, 2014

I absolutely agree with Hugo (the what?!?) when he says that dealers who are straightforward will outsell competitors. That's especially true today with social media spreading the word.

on Dec 23, 2014

Why are 60-minute auto deals and being treated well by the dealer / good relationship mutually exclusive? Why can't I have both?

on Dec 23, 2014

Why are 60-minute auto deals and being treated well by the dealer / good relationship mutually exclusive? Why can't I have both?

on Dec 23, 2014

Because you'll complicate things by using the dealer's price as your opening negotiation gambit and because the chances are you don't have fast track credit, that's why. Plus, you'll probably be upside down in your trade and want to argue about its value.

on Dec 23, 2014

Because you'll complicate things by using the dealer's price as your opening negotiation gambit and because the chances are you don't have fast track credit, that's why. Plus, you'll probably be upside down in your trade and want to argue about its value.

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What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.

Contributors

Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for WardsAuto.com. His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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