Do I Hear a Squeaky Wheel

March 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Thomas B. Hudson, Esq. - Also by this author

I write article after article and give presentations at dealer conferences every other day (or so it seems), and I seldom get any feedback about whether I’m doing any good when it comes to helping dealers with all this compliance stuff. So it’s gratifying to get a letter indicating that at least some dealers are drinking the Kool-Aid I’m selling. It’s even more fun when the writer has a sense of humor. Here’s a recent letter from a dealer who had recently bought our latest book, “CARLAW Reloaded.” Evidently, the mailman was able to deliver the letter despite our dog Spot’s best efforts to dismember him:


I hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season. I'm currently plugging my way through your book “Reloaded." It's an easy read, but when I got to the section about advertising, I felt like I was reading a Stephen King novel.

You see, I'd recently been dragged kicking and screaming into "the Internet Age." By my staff. Who assured me we’re Doing Everything Right. So, when I got to the section of your book that made me feel like "Something Wicked Had Already Arrived" I did the following, and I'm only on Chapter 6 in the book....
Shut down the website, and I'll email you particulars why when I get a few more minutes.
Told them that they can only put cash cars on Craigslist, must disclose that we are dealers, and don't put any pricing at all.

Prayed for divine intervention in hoping no one printed off any of the junk that the website host put on as "extras" that the staff thought was great.
Told my husband, who's been running this place for almost 40 years, that he can no longer just throw the customer's drivers license on the counter til they get back from a test drive.
I can write an entire chapter or two for your next book, but suffice it to say that as much money as we spend on everything else, I'm demanding that ALL of the new regulations (and some that aren't new, just being enforced more often) are going to be taken quite seriously.

Now, I know this writer. I’ve spoken to her several times over the years at various conferences, and my impression of her and her husband is that they are bright, thoughtful people and good business people. So I was a little surprised to hear her say that she thought her compliance efforts weren’t up to snuff. I’d have bet that she had her store turning pretty square corners when it came to the rules and regulations that apply to her business.

I suspect that she is like most dealers I know, and probably like I would be if I were a dealer. Compliance efforts aren’t exactly a profit center, and the dealers we work with seem to operate frequently using the concept of the squeaky wheel—they address compliance when there’s a problem.

Well, some pretty big wheels are about to squeak. The new federal Bureau of Consumer Protection is in the process of organizing. When it begins its work, auto dealers will be on the short list of businesses it will target. And for those dealers who are fortunate enough to enjoy an exemption from the Bureau’s jurisdiction, the Federal Trade Commission has just assembled an auto dealer task force (the “auto dealer” in the task force title is what detectives call a “clue”).

If my letter writer follows through and addresses the compliance problems she has identified so far, then goes a step farther and does a review of the rest of her store, she just might be ready when those wheels begin to squeak.

Vol 8, Issue 1


  1. 1. David M. Warner [ April 26, 2011 @ 06:01PM ]

    I feel a lot like the woman in the story at times. I get 20-30 emails daily from multiple sources concerning new idea's, inventory, federal regulation's, compliance and so on that I usually read to start my day. I am truly amazed how involved the Fed's seem to worry more about auto dealers turning a profit than solving the Federal Deficit. I agree with most regulation's and see the reasoning behind them, I know I would never want my customer's exposed in any way as far as privacy information or a chance for identity theft, but I do have concern's with coming regulation's involving fixed pricing on used vehicle's, extended service plan's, gap insurance policy's etc..etc..etc..etc.

    Great article!! Congrats..


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