Automotive Dealer Data Access - Data Fields, Lock'm Down - DTG Digital Efficiency

The Data War is raging.

Automotive dealers are becoming more enlightened daily as they are being exposed at NADA and through forums such as DealerElite to the very serious matter of consumer and dealer data leakage. By data leakage, I am referring to the unrestricted polling or scraping of their dealership DMS (computer systems) by vendors providing software "solutions" that are suppose to be helping dealers organize and maximize sales. Typically, these vendors have inserted unrestricted access to secured data into fine print clauses within service agreements. Dealer representatives, many without authorization to release data, are signing agreements for a separate "solution" with no knowledge that they have opened the DMS data gates to their tech savvy "partner". Vendor affiliations, partnerships and outright direct procurement have combined dealership data into online resources now being used against the very source they took it from. (Under most circumstances while charging the dealer for their "solution")

Some recent history: Case Review - is the most recognizable culprit of this Data War. Their handling of dealership relations early on spurred automotive activists, such as Jim Ziegler, to challenge their business plan. Much has happened since then including legislative action, dealership cancellations, and most importantly... a dogged review of how they were procuring dealership data. For the result was the halting of business in multiple states and the refining of their business plan time and time again. 

The dogged review of data procurement exposed fine print releases within vendor agreements and an accumulation algorithm from multiple sources that combined customer and dealer data. Data which eventually turned up being used against dealers in online consumer pricing "tools" while dealers paid $299 - $399 per TC vehicle sold.


Hence, the Data Wars. Automotive dealers were thrust into learning more about computer vendor software / hardware technology and contract data release clauses to be able to make reasonable decisions to protect their dealership and consumer data. 

One possible solution to minimize wasted time, money and learning requirements... Lock down critical fields. Fields are pieces of each consumer's record. Dealership DMS stores records, made up of fields, to hold tens of thousands of consumers information. An example of this can be found in Microsoft's Excel. With Excel, you have records in rows and fields in columns. All dealers have to do is Lock Down individual columns with critical information.

Final Thought:

Do not allow anyone access to data that is harmful or required to be secured.

Your input is welcome.

Good Selling,


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Comment by David T. Gould on February 21, 2012 at 3:34pm

Thanks Jay, I appreciate your understanding and research of this pressing matter. You have "bridged" the vendor communications gap and are moving in a positive direction. 

Your Privacy Notice concern is another data security / compliance item that dealers can take control of themselves. (maybe with a little help) Signed Privacy Notices should be required with every deal (not just credit) to protect dealers and make customers aware of the potential uses of their information.

In today's environment, I would lean the wording towards protecting the dealership from unauthorized use.

Comment by Jay Prassel on February 21, 2012 at 2:26pm

@David: As you wrote......

"Dealers do not have to wait for vendors, trainers, associations and / or their legislators to find the solution to this exceptionally important matter. Dealership's can take back control of their customer and dealership confidential and financial data today if they know how."

You are correct! We don't have to wait for help. Lock everyone out who doesn't need to be in there and for those that do need to have access, limit their access or "push it" whenever possible.

And while you're on this mission, check your Privacy Notice to make sure it's compliant.

Comment by David T. Gould on February 19, 2012 at 11:45pm

George O'Sullivan thank you for your input. Your action speaks volumes for what dealers should be doing across the country. Locking down dealership data AND monitoring those few intermediary polling companies / vendors who must have access is every dealers obligation. This is the only way to be sure that their customer's and their information is not pilfered and disseminated for others to capitalize on. 

Comment by George O'Sullivan on February 17, 2012 at 3:35pm

Not only do you need to lock down the fields that are most critical to controling your database.  As a dealership I believe we need to eliminate access entirely, whenever possible.  We went from 7 companies having access to parts of our database to 2 and now to 1.  We are locked tight and we watch the one company that does have access.  We are the ones with the liability and what we make on a deal is NO ONE's business!!!

Comment by David T. Gould on February 16, 2012 at 10:56pm

My suggestion of Locking Down Critical Dealership Data Fields has generated interesting feedback on other thread(s). The jury is out here on why others are not jumping on board with the suggestion of starving the beast by restricting which data is accessible to a VERY limited number of intermediary data polling services. Don't mind me for trying to keep this simple... That is what I do... I look at things (mostly digital) and figure out the simplest way to get from point A to point Z. I do not stand here as an authority on this, yet, but I do feel very comfortable stating here to the world that this solution OR one very similar is doable.

To be more specific; Research, here on DealerElite, suggests, there are "reports" (lists of fields), that are used to determine what information is "polled" (pulled out) from a dealership's DMS when requested by data polling services (a very limited number of intermediary data polling services), once polled the data is organized in a manner that 3rd party vendors can utilize it, then the data is transmitted to authorized (ideally) vendors who can disperse the data through their offering(s), associates and partners.

Based on this research, the point of least resistance, in my opinion, is the very limited number of intermediary data polling services. Restrict their unabated access with customized dealer friendly "reports" (lists of acceptable fields to poll) and the entire problem is resolved. KISS (keep it simple stupid)

Dealers do not have to wait for vendors, trainers, associations and / or their legislators to find the solution to this exceptionally important matter. Dealership's can take back control of their customer and dealership confidential and financial data today if they know how.

I invite all knowledgeable input that leads to the cutting off of unnecessary data being released at the source. 

Lock'm Down,


Comment by David T. Gould on February 8, 2012 at 1:01pm

Tom - DMV does play into this. They are wrong for selling personal data as well when it is without the permission of the original owner. As far as I am concerned, find money for the bridge elsewhere. Just like TrueCar, people are turning their backs on their personal information with an illusion that they may be saving money... Meanwhile, their personal information is being bought and sold by a very few tech savy companies. As stated elsewhere, this data accumulation business is in the multi billions of dollars... not chump change. Are they paying enough for the data they are accumulating? I say no. This technology is new. Also, keep in mind that they are not paying dealers for their data... they are taking it. I am not going to try to wrap my head around the rest of the world, but I do believe that I "get" the automotive side. I believe controlling data from the point of its origination based on its importance is the answer. Example: dealership profit on the sale of an automobile. Critically important. Lock Those Fields Down. No one besides the dealer and maybe an auditor should have access to an individual deal profit. Now, take this a step further, a few others including say the manufacturer may need / require total model profits. Ok, they get a cumulative total. Now individual deals would not skew analytics and bell curves. I suspect someone out there reading this is crying FOUL on that last sentence. But what they don't understand is there are mitigating (litigating as well) factors involved in dealers making individual "deals" that make absolutely no sense standing on their own. Technically, these deals should not be included in any cumulative profit, they belong in the customer retention account or marketing account. Hope this long winded description opens up more thoughts... 

Good Selling!


Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on February 8, 2012 at 6:16am

David...How do the states DMVs play into all of this? If I am not mistaken, my state, Michigan, sells data to anyone who can write a check.( We need the money, hell, we might need a bridge to nowhere some day). Anonymized data info from several sources when re-assembled is no longer anonymous. Personal Data is like trouble I fear, if you go looking for it sooner or later you will find it. Assume for the moment we all cutoff DMS access, will this stop or even slow anyone from discovering transactional data and in the process assemble personal information?...I am lock step with you on the mission, I am just trying to wrap my mind around just how big this may be. Thanks for your post David!

Comment by David T. Gould on February 8, 2012 at 12:38am

Time to LOCK'EM DOWN gentlepeople. Technically this can be done. DTG DATA LEAKAGE SMACKDOWN TIME! Lock these fields down.

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