Special Report

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e-Dealer 100

Recently, I received a phone call from an Internet director wanting to talk about the Ward's e-Dealer 100. He just started at a dealership in Detroit, which, up to this point has done little with the Internet, other than putting together a nice web site.

The owner wants to become one of the top e-Dealers in Michigan, and — no surprise here — wants to make the Ward's e-Dealer 100 list, possibly as soon as next year.

The dealership has a lot of work to do before that happens. This particular Internet director has set up Internet departments for other stores so he realizes there is no silver bullet other than hard work and commitment.

Another dealer we've talked to recently decides which vendors to use based on what tools dealers on the Ward's e-Dealer 100 are using.

These are just some of the numerous e-mails and phone calls we get from dealers looking for guidance and help in setting up their Internet departments — too many to count.

We like to think the Ward's e-Dealer 100 list has helped build awareness among dealers about the benefits of having a viable online strategy.

Many dealers, and vendors, would like us to develop an industry-standard definition of an Internet lead. Some dealers complain the ranking is not a true comparison because so many dealers measure their numbers differently.

For example, there are dealers who do not count special finance sales that are generated by the Web. Other dealers, such as the Earnhardt Group, depend a great deal on those sales.

Phone leads also prove to be controversial. Some count them, others don't.

So what are we to do? I always answer those questions or criticisms this way: We've decided to let the industry determine what an Internet sale is.

And the fact is, dealers have come up with their own definitions. Because of what the industry says, our definition allows for some freedom. The definition provides a framework for dealers, and we think it makes sense. The customer initiates contact online (or by phone if the Web drives the call); identifies a specific vehicle while a dedicated Internet department manages or oversees the process.

Limiting dealers to a strict definition of an Internet sale for the sake of the ranking's purity would hinder the objective of the list. We want dealers to engage in the discussion and the process — not shy away because their definition doesn't match ours.

We look at the ranking as a barometer of what is going on in the industry — an accurate barometer, though. Approaching the Ward's e-Dealer 100 in this way creates a more open and valuable discussion. By letting dealers and their Internet directors dictate the process, we're better able to pinpoint the latest trends and best practices, and ultimately share with you what the leaders in the industry are doing.

The ultimate goal here at Ward's is to provide you with the most valuable information possible to help you make more money.

And we consistently hear from dealers the Ward's e-Dealer 100 accomplishes that goal.
Cliff Banks
Editorial Director
Ward's Dealer Group

cbanks@wardsauto.com
248-799-2649