Jim Hillibish: What if a car dealer knew your mind before the big sale?

Jim Hillibish

Web marketing gurus do a lot of “what ifs.” “What if a car dealer knew exactly what vehicle you’re interested in BEFORE you arrive?”

What if they had a list of vehicle websites you’ve visited, manufacturers and competing dealers? What if they knew you’re looking for a Ford Fusion Hybrid with leather in red and black, but might bite on a Prius c? And they knew what their competitors offered you, including your trade-in?

Pretty powerful stuff. It could be coming soon to a vehicle mall near you.

Sellers will contract with companies that will record all vehicle searches in their selling area. Their printout includes your name and email address, gleaned from the customer box all dealers require before quoting inventory and prices. The interesting part is they’ve recorded your mouse clicks and know exactly which vehicles interest you.

With more than 80 percent of potential vehicle buyers doing research on the Internet, this information is priceless, in fact, revolutionary.

It will seem like mind-reading, especially when sellers tell you what color you’re looking for.  

The applications of this are amazing. Imagine a real-estate agent knowing what and where you want to move, how much you can spend and that you need a five-car garage. This would vastly simplify the purchasing process.

I would not fear this, but I would not adore it, either. With the Internet, privacy concerns are not for what they are doing now but for the future.

What if they sell your name, phone and email address to a database of red-hot potential sellers? Imagine every car dealer knowing you’re “in the market.” You bet they’d be calling, and won’t give up easily.

In exchange, we can only hope we’ll get absolutely the best deal in town on that Fusion. All we need is a sales agreement and financing, which they’ve probably already arranged, as they’ve visited your credit report.

In Japan, they don’t have vehicle stores. Everybody shops on the Internet. Then the sellers in town contact you, you choose the best deal and they bring the vehicle over for a test drive. The deal is consummated in your living room, not a showroom.

I’m going to miss the smell of cigarettes and pressure sweat. Car sellers have become the nicest people on earth since they no longer have to sort out the pretenders from the contenders. That once was a big part of the job.

Now, some buyers don’t even care about a test drive. In the future, they could probably do the whole deal via email. Isn’t that special?

I’ve learned the hard way that every time you read “the Japanese are doing it,” be wary.

I like to look at cars online, fantasy cars, Pagani Zondas and Bugatti Veyrons and Maybach Zeppelins. My price search starts at $1 million. Imagine the file on me.

“Hello, Mr. Hillibish, this is the IRS.”

“Hello, Hillibish, this is the DEA.”

“Hola, Jimbo, this is Jay Leno. You and I got somethin’ in common, bud.”