SeeDealerCost.com debuts to sharp criticism, lawsuit - Trade Only Today

SeeDealerCost.com debuts to sharp criticism, lawsuit

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Company says 27,000 visit in first month

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Organizers of the controversial SeeDealerCost.com website say they are happy with the site's progress only a month into its launch, while many in the industry say its information is inaccurate and hope it will fail.

The site was launched in mid-March and in its first three weeks attracted more than 27,000 unique visitors and 300,000 page views, according to the company. Traffic came from 92 countries and the site was ranked at 67,344 in the United States by Alexa.

Those involved with the site say visitors conducted more than 19,000 product configurations.

SeeDealerCost.com is not a sales site, but it includes manufacturer and dealer price information, including prices on used models, as well as dealer locator information, educational articles, FAQs, finance and insurance information and the option to request a quote.

The site also explains that the dealer price does not include items such as shipping, dealer prep, taxes, fees, rigging and other things.

In addition to boats, the site covers outboard motors and powersports equipment and it soon will include recreational vehicles.

"We're very excited about the traffic and the site response," says Dave Taylor, an industry veteran associated with the venture. "We're ahead of where we thought we would be, so we're excited about it."

Accuracy questions

Some industry officials say that now that they've seen the site they are not as alarmed as they initially were.

"Now that they've given out the fact that they have all these 100,000 page views, or whatever it is, I would tell you that probably 98 percent of those are dealers that are looking at it to see if what they have on it is right," says Phil Keeter, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America.

"I have not talked to any dealer that has claimed that the stuff that's on there is correct," he adds. "They're telling me that it's old data. Some of them are telling me that it's data that doesn't include the way the boat is normally equipped and some of them are telling me, 'I never saw a price like that.'

"I'm not as alarmed now that I see it because as far as I'm concerned, it's just bogus," Keeter says.

Taylor says site administrators and creators have spent a lot of time to make sure they have the most accurate information possible.

"There's been a lot of discussion, some in the industry, on discrediting the site, and so I think you've got a whole mix of things that are going on there," he says. "However, we feel very confident in what we're putting out."

As for who is behind the site, Taylor says he's still not at liberty to release that information, although he expects it will come out at some point.

Keeter says he has heard lots of rumors about who owns the site - a manufacturer, a former dealer, the people behind Edmunds - just to name a few.

Taylor would not comment on those possibilities.

Jacobs sues

Meanwhile, J&D Acquisitions, headed by Irwin Jacobs, filed suit in Minnesota against the site, arguing that the use of its contractual and proprietary pricing information "will damage our brands and our dealers, and we will not stand for it."

Jacobs sent a letter to all Larson, Seaswirl, FinCraft and Triumph dealers and sales representatives to inform them of the legal action. J&D Acquisitions also owns Marquis and Carver.

Of the J&D Acquisition brands, only Larson has its own link on the site. The lawsuit specifically lists Larson Boats as the plaintiff. The defendant is listed as Pay Dealer Cost, a North Carolina corporation based in Greenville.

"Please know that we are fully investigating how this site obtained our contractual and proprietary information," chairman and CEO Irwin Jacobs says in the letter. "Once such source is identified, you can trust that the appropriate actions will be taken to deal with these individuals."

Jacobs stresses the importance of not releasing such information to a third party.

"We are prepared to do everything in our power to protect our brands and our dealers," he says. "These illegal acts will not be tolerated."

Although Taylor could not comment specifically on the lawsuit, he stands by the site.

"We are very confident and comfortable in what we are doing and how we are doing it," he says.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.

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