Skip to content

The Car Dealer website concept is broken

The concept of having a "car dealer website" is broken. In this article, Michael Cirillo explains how you can increase consumer engagment.

As the online marketplace for car dealers becomes more and more cluttered, it's time for us to start having meaningful conversations.

The concept of having a "car dealer website" is broken, and it's time we stop talking about it.

Great, you're a car dealer. You sell cars. And you have a website.

But that doesn't mean that what you have is a car dealer website. At least, that's not what it should mean.

There are going to be varying schools of thought on this. Some will argue that I'm grasping at thin air, trying to have a conversation about a technicality.

Others might think that I'm losing my mind. "How can it be anything other than a car dealer website when it's a website for a car dealer?!?"

But this isn't a technicality. It isn't me grasping at nothing.

There is a legitimate reason car dealer websites are a broken concept. My hope is to illustrate how this "technicality" can translate to massive success for your store or dealer group. 

1. Car Dealers Are Not Your Target Market

The whole concept of "For Car Dealers By Car Dealers", only makes sense if auto dealers are your target market.

But if you aren't in the business of selling cars to car dealers, then this idea is broken.

Now, I understand why this slogan rose to popularity. Of course, you want to partner with someone who knows your business.

There's only one problem... see #2.  

2. Dealers Still Complain

To my last count, there are well over 50 "car dealer website" providers in North America alone.

And while each of them is touting success stories and sharing statistics to help encourage your trust in them, there's a massive caveat.

No matter the provider, dealers still complain about the same things.

Lack of service, lack of results, not getting what they expected, and round and round it goes.

So let me ask, how well is working with a company that understands your business working for you?

More importantly, why hasn't anyone drawn any attention to this?

Companies like DrivingSales are on to something when they seek inspiration and speakers from outside of the automotive industry. Again, there is an incredibly powerful reason for that as well. Find out by continuing to point #3.  

3. Car Shoppers are Every Other Type Of Shopper First

We often think of automotive customers from inside a vacuum. We talk about them as if they are exclusive.

The problem with this is that it's not true. Automotive shoppers are influenced by the activities that they frequently do.

From online shopping sites like Amazon or Zulily to Social sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. Automotive customers are conditioned for a particular online experience before they visit your site.

This leads to reason #4.  

4. Your Car Dealer Website Isn't Where Consumers Go First

Ever wondered why shoppers are going to sites like AutoTrader or Kelly Blue Book first?

First, because they've been trained that this is where they should go to get unbiased information.

Second, because the information is nowhere to be found on your "car dealer website".

I've had the opportunity to audit thousands of dealer sites, and there is one thing I know for certain.

The majority of them are truly dealer sites in the sense that all they do is talk about the dealer. They are dealer-centric.

It's annoying...

You are surrendering your ability to educate your prospects and become a credible source of information by not providing any value on your site.  

5. The Shiny (Unproven) Object

It's entirely human to want something new. We all have a tendency to want the latest and greatest.

Most car dealer website providers have leveraged this by continuing to develop the next best thing and keeping dealers wanting more.

But according to my observation, those shiny new objects are exactly that. They often are nothing more than the next "promise" that allows the provider to increase your monthly spending.

But here's the thing...

The vast majority of those shiny new developments have little proof behind them.

Sure they win awards and draw up a ton of PR, but very few of them have been proven to work.

That's why the hype often wears off so quickly, and those shiny gimmicks become forgotten memories.

The fact of the matter is this: you already have everything you need to achieve incredible success online.

It's not so much about what you have as it is about how you're using it.  

So What's The Solution?

To reiterate my first point, this is a meaningful conversation that we need to start having in the industry.

It's not meant to be controversial, it's supposed to be empowering.

I am not looking to be yet another industry "vendor" who becomes the next disrupter. You know...the ones who make fools of themselves debating all over social media. I am starting the conversation because there is a solution.

There is a way to get around this crap and see incredible, sustainable results online.

Don't have a car dealer website.

Have a consumer website.

Focus on providing an exceptional online experience for those that visit your site, or who engage with you elsewhere online.

You'll find that the slight shift in focus means less time updating your meaningless coupons and more time providing valuable, enriching information that consumers are truly searching for.

Doing so will immediately differentiate you from your competition. You will quickly rise above the clutter and dominate your market.

Michael Cirillo      

Michael Cirillo      

Michael Cirillo is the CEO of, a leading provider of innovative inventory and marketing solutions for the retail auto industry. He is also the host of the top-rated Dealer Playbook podcast and an acclaimed author and speaker. With his passion for creative thinking and a growth mindset, Michael helps dealerships develop and achieve their digital goals.

Elements Image

Subscribe to our newsletter

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Semper neque enim rhoncus vestibulum at maecenas. Ut sociis dignissim.

Latest Articles

Do Blogs Work For Car Dealerships?

Do Blogs Work For Car Dealerships?

Dealership websites should help car shoppers make information decisions. Blogs, as part of an SEO strategy can help dealers win more busine...

Top 5 SEO Strategies for Car Dealerships in 2024

Top 5 SEO Strategies for Car Dealerships in 2024

Car Dealer SEO doesn't have to be complicated. Here are 5 Car Dealer SEO tips to implement in 2024 and beyond.

What's in Store for 2024: Automotive Industry Predictions

What's in Store for 2024: Automotive Industry Predictions

What's in store for retail auto dealers in 2024? Industry professionals share their best predictions about the state of the automotive mark...