By Earl Stewart
The Wall Street Journal reporter interviewed the article. I sent him copies of invoices, buyer’s orders, dealer addendum labels, and names of people I knew around the US who were experts on unfair and deceptive advertising by car dealers. It was important to me because having what I’ve fought against for so many years written about by a national publication adds credibility. Not only does the Wall Street Journal have the largest circulation of any newspaper in America, but it’s also arguably the most respected daily publication.
One might ask, why don’t local newspapers write stories about car dealers’ unfair and deceptive sales and advertising? The answer, like so many, is “follow the money”. Every local newspaper has an auto advertising section with most of, if not all of the dealers in that market. Newspapers seem to be the advertising choice of many dealers, although TV and online have definitely cut into their revenue in large metro markets. TV ads are so expensive that most dealers have no choice but to use the newspaper and online. Car dealers are the single largest source of ad revenue in many newspaper markets.
Now I know that journalistic ethics require a separation between the news, editorial, and advertising departments. But that’s the way it used to be. Today local newspapers and even some national ones are struggling for survival. Ethics go out the window when it comes to survival. Would you steal food for your child if you believed you had no other recourse?
Another reason that I’m encouraged by this Wall Street Journal article is that every auto manufacturing executive reads this newspaper every day, especially articles about automobiles. Also, most car dealers also read the Wall Street Journal. Reading a negative report about deceptive car dealer sales practices in a highly respected national newspaper has got to get their attention. Many manufacturers and most car dealers seem to be in denial about how they endeavor to trick their customers with misleading, false ads and sales practices.
I have to believe the auto industry will awaken one day and realize that almost all other retailers in the 21st century have left car dealers in the dust. Most car dealers are still employing the “get ‘em in the door any way you can and make as big a profit as you can get away with” shabby tactics that were common practice fifty years ago. Most manufacturers and some dealers are beginning to realize that car dealers are held in the lowest esteem of any other retailer. Car sales and service complaints top the list and car dealers rank dead last or close to it in the annual Gallup poll, HONESTY AND ETHICS IN PROFESSIONS, along with Congressmen, lobbyists, and lawyers.
I tell manufacturers and my fellow dealers that if we don’t regulate ourselves, you can bet the government will step in and do it for us. Federal Trade Commission is conducting hearings all around America asking for input about unfair and deceptive trade practices by car dealers. If the government steps in like they did with our nation’s banks, car dealers and manufacturers can expect to be up to their eyeballs in expensive regulations, red tape, and bureaucracy.
The title to this article and the illustration above was taken from an article in the Wall Street Journal. Please don’t accuse me of plagiarizing because I’m giving credit to the Wall Street Journal and the reporter, Charles Passy who wrote the article. You can read the article by clicking on www.HowMuchIsThatAutoInTheWindow.com .
Bio: Earl Stewart has been featured in news coverage by CNN, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Business Week and locally in The Palm Beach Post, The Sun Sentinel and the South Florida Business Journal for his innovative and often unorthodox approach to operating an automotive dealership. Earl is well known for pioneering unorthodox customer service methods like his famous red phone hotlines and the implementation of his Earl Stewart Code that guides the conduct of all employees.
Earl currently is featured as a weekly contributor to The Hometown News, writing weekly columns on a variety of automotive and consumer-related topics. He has a blog site offering advice to consumers on buying and servicing cars, www.EarlStewartOnCars.com as well as a live weekly radio talk show airing Tuesday afternoons from 4 – 6 p.m. on 900AM The Talk of the Palm Beaches and can be streamed online at www.StreamEarlOnCars.com. Earl’s first book, Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer, was published in the fall of 2012 and is offers unique insights into the car business and serves as a useful reference manual to anyone wary of walking into a car dealership.