An Exclusive Interview with Jim Ziegler
dE gets one-on-one, down and dirty, with the Alpha Dawg


DealerElite: What motivates Jim Ziegler?


Ziegler: My life and business is all about relationships Chris. I have a philosophy that the most powerful people on Earth are those people that influence the most other people.


The power of influence is magnified by the number of relationships a person can manage with the amplification made possible by Social Mediums like Facebook, LinkedIn and, of course DealerElite.



DealerElite: Jim, How long have you been a Dealer Elite member?

Ziegler: I became a contributing member of Dealer Elite from the very beginning more than two years now.


DealerElite: Jim, you've achieved a lot of recognition with a 36 year career in the national spotlight. Record setting manager, professional speaker, magazine columnist, sales and management trainer to the automobile industry; your time must be extremely compressed. Why do you dedicate so much time and energy to participating on Dealer Elite forums?


Ziegler: Great question Chris. I have a lot of friends here. We do things for each other and it's like a fraternity/sorority of like-minded people. You know I call my inner circle of friends and associates 'The Alpha Dawg Tribe', and; 'The Tribe' is a very real and substantial force. We get things done.


Sort of like that great 20th century philosopher, Mr. Ringo Starr, once said, "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends".


DealerElite: Jim, I have a question I've wanted to ask you for nearly 20 years now. Your company is Ziegler SuperSystems, inc.


You're into to so many things: We see you everywhere at the same time. Exactly what do you see as your priorities and goals  in your life and business?


Ziegler: (laughs) That's the secret Chris. I'm actually identical triplets living as a single identity.


Seriously though, the formula for success is organization and super productivity. When I am in the office it is not uncommon for me to speak to 100 or more dealers in a single day. I've been called the one-man BDC. Some of these dealers have been clients for 25 years, or their parents were.


I've created a recognizable brand, the jewelry, the baseball hats, the swagger and persona are all part of a carefully projected character that is the Alpha Dawg. There's a strong possibility I might not really take it all that seriously. Those who know me get it.


My wife Debbie and I founded Ziegler SuperSystems on the kitchen table in 1986 when I left the retail business to embark on this adventure.


Although I do perform sales training in dealerships, I consider myself a management trainer and dealership consultant. I am one of the very few nationally recognized trainers in our business that actually was a successful manager in retail. For more than 36 years I've traveled more than 200-250 days a year speaking, training, and actually working in real dealerships with real customers.

DealerElite: Tell me in more detail, exactly what do you teach in your seminars?


Ziegler: Primarily, we (Ziegler SuperSystems) are in the seminar business. In my previous life I was a Rock Jock at WAPE Radio in Jacksonville long before the car business. I already had the speaking skills and stage presence before I became a car salesman, and ultimately; a record-setting manager.


For the first twenty-five years in business we had as many as 40 employees and 6000 feet of upscale offices. All of that shifted radically in 2008 when the economy crashed and I brought the business home.


Our bread and butter seminars are the Automobile Sales Managers Seminar and The F&I Mastermind Seminar. Teaching managers how to be sales managers, how to motivate a sales team, and how to negotiate profitable car deals; this makes us unique because there's no one else in the industry teaching  what we do and getting the results we can document in profit and unit sales increases.


The F&I Mastermind Seminar is getting immediate and measurable results as soon as the students return to the dealerships. Everything we teach is high integrity, finesse and persuasion.  There are too many excuse-makers in the business today trying to explain why they can't do the numbers. My students are doing it consistently.


DealerElite:  Jim, what about the Internet Battle Plan Seminars?


Ziegler: Chris, I am often made fun of because I still use an America Online as my primary email account, BUT; the truth be known, I have had that account and that email address continually since 1996.  We have had income-producing websites since the late 90's.


A few years ago it became obvious you couldn't be in the Car Business unless you were involved in technology enabled sales and marketing. I was already in the seminar business so the transition was easy.


I am a CSP, a certified speaking professional, in the National Speakers Association which is the highest earned designation you can achieve in NSA. A lot of the internet and technology marketing expertise I have learned came from some of the foremost experts in the world, NOT from other people associated with the car business teaching the same old stuff to each other they originally learned from each other. I always strongly advocate people seek training outside of our industry for new fresh concepts, technology applications and techniques.


The Internet Battle Plan is NOT a conference with 50 or 60 speakers you have to weed through to find the real ones. There no selling from the stage, which has become a disease with some of these events .


I wanted Battle Plan to be a learning experience delivering real usable information that the audience could go back to their dealerships and implement immediately, and see immediate results, without having to hire a vendor to do it for you. So I select only those speakers who are A-Team Players with value to present to the audience. We have sponsors true, but, unlike some of the largest conferences you can't buy your way onto the stage.


We're getting larger crowds every time. The Internet battle Plan coming up in Cleveland has a Rock n Roll theme since it is right next to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.


DealerElite: Jim, many DealerElite members know you as the Car Guy, sales trainer, management trainer, F&I trainer; But, most recently we've seen the other side of Jim Ziegler, the activist. Your blogs and campaign about TrueCar here on DealerElite and elsewhere have created a national movement with literally dozens of spinoff blogs, and hundreds of thousands of page views.


Whatever inspired you to take on this cause?


Ziegler: Well Chris, to better understand, you'd have to look at my history. This isn't the first time I've mobilized a movement to take on an injustice, and prevailed. Back in the late 90's and early 2000's I spearheaded  a movement against Ford Motor Company's infamous Blue Oval program and The Ford Auto Collections. These programs were oppressive and vindictive against the dealers. In the end I was able to rally enough forces from many different directions to bring both programs down.  Once again going back to that theory of mine that the most powerful people on Earth are those people who influence the most other people.


Right now I have more than 100,000 friends and followers on the Social networks. Most of them are Car People and The Alpha Dawg Tribe is highly responsive. My email database has more than 135,000 subscribers that I can send a message to at the speed of electricity. Ordinarily I hang around my Facebook Pages or Twitter @JimZiegler. It's not uncommon for me to have 300-400 unique visitors in a single day on my pages.

When TrueCar popped up on my radar last November, they had already made ripples when Jeff Kerschner of Dealer Refresh had written an article about them Unfortunately Jeff's article had a short shelf life and he moved on to other subjects.


When I saw my first video interview featuring Scott Painter of TrueCar arrogantly proclaiming his company was going to eliminate the retail car business using our data and our money, bells went off.  A ragtag band of Merry Men (and women) went into action writing discussing, emailing, blogging, and I personally hit the speaking circuit. It began on November 27th, 2011 and, by December we had a full scale revolt coming at TrueCar from every side. State Dealer bodies got involved and state authorities found their business model illegal in many states.


Right now, Scott Painter and TrueCar are conducting every speech they can pay for him to be on stage. He's apologizing and admitting they made mistakes and saying he now loves the car dealers. I hope nobody falls for this. I believe they are as evil and devious as ever and a danger to our business.


The next step beyond TrueCar is the Data Pirates. That battle is about to heat up as we mobilize an industry against all vendors that take data from dealers DMS Computers and resell it, or repurpose it, or aggregate it with personal identifiable and financial transaction data to sell to your dealerships' competitors, and use it against our best interest.


Personally, I am sick and disgusted with these vendors that take our data and our money and then use it to market 'distrust' to the consumers. We are paying companies to make us look bad and perpetuate stereotypes and bad images of car dealers. TrueCar has made a business model out of slandering car dealers and making the public distrust us.


Of course you might say and CarFax are also data aggregators that promote public dislike of Car Dealers, and you'd be right. They are in the cross hairs in upcoming campaigns but, truthfully, TrueCar is still at the top of the menu. Our mission in 2012 is going to be to kill all sources of data and put it tightly back in dealership control.


DealerElite: Jim, you've done it, been there, seen it, and pioneered it. Are there retirement plans in your future? I see where you just contracted to be a featured speaker at the National Automobile Dealers Convention in Brazil in Sao Paulo in August. What's next?


Ziegler: (Ziegler laughs again) Retire? Chris retirement is such an absurd concept. People who look forward to retirement hate what they do. My plan is to die onstage in front of cheering audience. Somebody will yell out, "There goes Jim!" and the next sound will be a thud.


I've written featured columns for major industry publications since 1988. Some say I have been the most read columnist in the industry by industry people. Currently I am writing for Wards' Dealer Business Magazine and F&I Showroom Magazines.


Since 1986 I've been a presenter/speaker at 14 NADA National Conventions and 79 State Dealer Convention Keynote Speeches. In 2008 I was the Keynote Speaker for the Australian Auto Dealers Annual Convention in Brisbane Gold Coast.


I've become friends with all of my nationally recognized competitors except one (really don't like that guy). 


Grant Cardone, Joe Verde, Dave Anderson and, most recently, Brain Pasch have all become friends. It's a big world.


Am I slowing down? Unfortunately, I don't know how. I am totally booked at my outrageous fee plus first-class travel (Ziegler don't fly in the back of no planes) as far into the future as I choose to be. I love working in these dealerships actually desking deals, internet as well as selling and delivering F&I deals. Yes, I actually still do it.


There's a lot of credibility when Car People see me working real deals with real customers, and doing it extremely well.


DealerElite: Other than the public, in-your-face, bigger than life Jim Ziegler, the extrovert on steroids; what would people be surprised to know about you?


Ziegler: I really love my family. My wife Debbie has been with me 30 years, originally she was an 'up'. That's right, sold her a car back in the day, ended up marrying.


My son and my granddaughter, my dog Sadie and cat Sophie; it doesn't get any better than this.


Chinese buffets and Corvettes, chess and Facebook.  Next to my family, most of all I love my friends. Every phone call or text ends the same way. "Is there anything I can do to help you?"


DealerElite: You can contact Jim at  or call (770) 921-4440

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Replies to This Discussion

Jim's the real deal in a see of industry icons and I thought this was a great, insightful interview.  Well done.

God bless Jim-

Welcome Back!

Great read and thanks for conducting a great interview with a legend Chris.  Jim, I look forward to a future chess match.

The late Neil Huffman gave Jim his first shot at the NCM 20 groups and at his dealerships in 1986 and he has thrived ever since.

Well done Chris, Jim is REAL and appreciate is passion.

Great Interview - I know much more about Jim now !! Here's wishing you a full recovery soon Jim :-) 

This is some Chicken Soup For The Car Sales Soul. Good stuff!

Jim is a true advocate for dealers and that is what I love about him!  Even when it seems unpopular to publically state his bold opinion about a controversial issue, Jim shows that he is a man true to his convictions...What is right, just and fair for the dealer body! 

What is not mentioned here is how Jim stood ground for the dealerships, privately owned businesses, losing their franchises under the GM and Chrysler BK's.  Jim advocated for the dealers losing their franchise, eventhough at the time the OEM's and Dealer Council groups were pitting go-forward dealers against thoses getting terminated or in wind-down agreements.  I gained so much respect for Jim during this time as he certainly was not looking out for what could be conceived "best for him".


Thanks Jim for all you do to make this industry a better place to ply one's trade and thanks Chris for bringing the real Jim to light with this insightful piece!


You are both class acts!!!!

I do play Chess Jerry BUT be warned, I really suck at it.

Jerry Thibeau said:

Great read and thanks for conducting a great interview with a legend Chris.  Jim, I look forward to a future chess match.

Great read Chris; and thank you Jim.

Jim at his best, straight for the heart, straight for the gut, straight for the bottom line! Got to love it! All the best my friend.

"There goes Jim!" and the next sound will be a thud. - (No time soon... what a great work and life attitude) Rock on Jim! DTG


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