How To Setup GA4 For Auto Dealers

How To Setup GA4 For Automotive Dealers

Why Do You Need To Setup Your Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

If you are just getting around to using your GA4, as your Universal Analytics held on a little longer than expected, or you finally have gotten through the holiday sales and can catch a breather, you’ve probably gone in and seen your metrics are vastly different than what you had in Universal Analytics (UA). You might see nearly 2x pageviews, lower number of sessions and the kicker, 0 conversions!

If you’ve been anywhere near the automotive industry in the last few years, you’ve probably heard of the Automotive Standards Council and their goal to standardize GA4 for Automotive Dealers. If that’s the case, then why hasn’t your GA4 been setup?

The Simple Answer:

Simply put, every one of your UA accounts has gotten created into a GA4, and new GA4 accounts were created. As such, you probably have a GA4 account that is setup, but it might not be the one you are looking at.

What if I want the GA4 account I’m looking at to be setup?

If you want the GA4 you are looking at to setup and receive ASC events, you will want to reach out to your various providers (Website, Text, Call, Chat, etc…) and ask them to send GA4 events into your measurement stream (the “G-#######” you can in your GA4 data stream).

After that, you will need to provision some settings in your data stream, configure your custom dimensions, opt-in your conversion events, as well as link your Google Ads account. You can read about it on the various guides online, hire one of the million GA4 “Experts” that have come out of the woodwork, or you can use our automated setup via a Google Sheet for free.

Link To Google Sheet

What will this automation do?

The automation above will audit your Settings, Conversions, Custom Dimensions, Google Ads Link, as well as your general events and tell you what you are missing. From there, you can simply opt in to “Manage” and it will setup your account as follows:


  • Property Name
    • Adjust the property name to what you set it as
  • Category
    • Adjusts your category to “Automotive”
  • Time Zone
    • Adjusts your Time Zone to whatever you set it to
  • Currency
    • Sets your Currency as USD (or alternatively, you can set it to CAD).
  • Google Signals Terms Accepted
    • While this doesn’t adjust this setting, it is necessary in able to opt-in to Google Signals.
  • Google Signals Enabled
    • Google Signals is Google’s technology that helps unify the user across their devices. By opting in, Google will attempt to consolidate your “Users” count to just unique users, but it will cause “Thresholding” if you do not adjust your Reporting Identity.
  • Thresholding
    • While not adjusted by this automation, it will tell you if your reports are getting hit by thresholding, indicating you receive too much traffic and either need to opt-out of using Google Signals as a reporting identity.
  • Data Retention Duration
    • Adjusts your Data Retention setting to 14 months, the maximum duration for standard GA4 Accounts
  • Data Retention – Reset on New Activity
    • Insures users data retention duration resets whenever a user visits your website.
  • Number of Web Data Streams
    • Does not adjust anything via automation, but will tell you how many web data streams you have in your property. You ideally only want 1 web data stream.
  • Enhanced Measurement
    • Adjusts your enhanced measurement settings to turn off “Pageview on History Change” and “Form Interacts”. “Pageview on History Change” will fire a new pageview when filters are applied to SRPs, which we do not consider to be true, new pageviews. We turn off “Form Interacts”, as you should be getting form information from your web provider and we do not want to double count forms. 


We enable all the standard Automotive Standard Council (ASC) events, while also giving you the ability to adjust your existing conversions (Except for the default ‘purchase’ event which we are unable to turn off). You are able to turn on any other ASC Events as conversions by clicking the check box on the column to the right. The events we turn on are: 

  • asc_comm_submission
  • asc_click_to_call
  • asc_form_submission
  • asc_purchase
  • asc_video_call_submission
  • asc_voice_submisson

Custom Dimension

We give an overview of what custom dimensions you already have created, as well as creates the recommended custom dimensions to get the most out of your ASC Events. You are maxed at 50 Event-Based custom dimensions, so make sure you do not have more than 20 custom dimensions created already. These custom dimensions are:

  • Affiliation
  • Comm Outcome
  • Comm Type
  • Currency
  • Department
  • Element Text
  • Element Type
  • Element Value
  • Event Owner
  • Flow Name
  • Flow Outcome
  • Form Name
  • Form Type
  • Item Category
  • Item Color
  • Item Condition
  • Item Fuel Type
  • Item Id
  • Item Make
  • Item Model
  • Item Number
  • Item Payment
  • Item Price
  • Item Type
  • Item Variant
  • Item Year
  • Media Type
  • Page Type
  • Product Name
  • Promotion Name

Google Ads Linking

Link your GA4 and Google Ads accounts if you have provided a CID. This is necessary to get additional information like campaign, ad group, cost, etc… from Google Ads.

ASC Event Audit

The automation does not do any changes to your ASC Events, but will provide an overview of ASC Events and what provider would send them. It also provides a list on the right as to what providers are sending events already. This will go as far back as the “Event Owner” custom dimension exists, so if you have just set it up, it might just need time to collect data.


Want a more visual version of running this? Here’s a quick video!


What if I do not see one of my providers on my Event List?

If you do not see a provider on the list, reach out to the provider with your Measurement Id (The “G-######”) and request they start sending ASC Events to your GA4. If you have any problems setting up your GA4, feel free to reach out and we might be able to point you in the right direction!

What is Thresholding in GA4?

What Is Thresholding in GA4?

Thresholding in GA4 is Google’s attempt at making the data more privacy-friendly when the underlying data could de-anonymize the end user. This occurs by removing segments of the data from being viewed, typically in breakouts like source/medium or page path. In these cases, your broken out information could be just a fraction of the original and hide important information.

When is Thresholding Applied to my GA4?

Thresholding will begin being applied in GA4 if you opt into Google Signals without adjusting the Reporting Identity, and you are viewing a data that is based on a user-scope. What this means is that if you attempt to view a segmented list of something like your source / medium report while looking at number of users, you will not see the entire data set. For that reason, it is highly recommended you avoid thresholding when possible.

How to Avoid Thresholding:

Avoiding thresholding is easily done by opting out of using your Google Signals as a reporting identity. This can be found under your Google Signals Settings

How to Adjust your Reporting Identity in GA4:

  1. Navigate to the Admin section in your GA4 Account
    GA4 Thresholding
  2. Scroll down under “Property” until you find “Data Settings” and click into “Data Collection”
    Google Signals Settings
  3. Click the toggle for “Include Google Signals in Reporting Identity” and turn it off
    Toggle Off Google Signals from Reporting Identity


After you’ve completed the above, you now will have a majority of your data available. You can still run into thresholding issues around Google Search and Demographic Data, but your data will now stop being subject to thresholding when you access your main reports.

Stars Aligning for a Big May and Memorial Day Sales Event in Auto

The stars are aligning for potential record-level vehicle sales in May and the highest demand ever for Memorial Sales Events. See our one-sheeter below for why.

P.S. Momentum could continue all summer. July history outsells May and August outsells July for new and used vehicles.

We are helping our partners to keep up with the speed of consumer demand in dealer inventory during sales events like Memorial Day. Contact us to learn more.


Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Ashley Lepczyk, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation Direct

Ashley Lepczyk
Chief Operating Officer

Marketing at the Speed of Consumer Demand and Dealer Inventory

Heading into a slew of sales events in the coming months, the trends are pointing toward a continued strong rebound for automotive sales in 2021 — April 2021 is forecasted to be a record-breaking month¹. Vehicle sales will only continue to rebound as we head towards Spring sales and Memorial Day — which is one of the top sales events of the year — right into Summer sales events, driving demand from the 4th-of-July through Labor Day. Consumer demand will continue to rise despite inventory constraints. Industry experts are increasingly bullish for 2021 sales as forecasts that we collected in the beginning of the year have already been adjusted for 2021.

The fact: Buyers are going to find a way to purchase a vehicle in the coming months regardless of inventory, price or vehicle color even if it is less desirable.

(like a Starbright Yellow KIA Seltos 😆) Is your dealership going to be there to capture demand?


Three reasons why quickly adapting to consumer demand and marketing your available inventory in the coming months is crucial:

  1. Demand is high and forecasts for 2021 vehicle sales  are trending even more favorably than just 3 months ago:
    • NEW VEHICLE SALES FORECASTS: Increased 0.7M units above the initial 15.5M forecast to 16.2M for 2021. Forecasts for 2022 have bumped up 0.2M units to 16.4M, surpassing pre-covid forecasts².
    • USED VEHICLE SALES FORECASTS: 2021 used sales forecasts were already above forecasts that came out pre-covid, displaying how hot the used car market has been. The industry has a chance for nearly 40M used vehicles sold in 2021 at the current pace².
  2. Inventory and transaction prices are heavily influencing in-market shopper behaviors: The semiconductor chip shortage drove New Vehicle days’ supply to 39 in the end of March 2021³ — the lowest since cash-for-clunkers back in 2008. Meanwhile, Used Vehicles are seeing record demand and transaction prices⁴. Consumers want to buy vehicles and will adapt behaviors to find a way to purchase one and we are seeing it in the data:
      • Searches for Dealers Near Me are back on the rise and hitting new record highs as people are open to searching multiple dealers to find a vehicle⁵. This points to an overall increase in lower-funnel intent in the marketplace.
      • Cross-shopping between New and Used Vehicles is growing as 59% of New Vehicle purchasers now consider Used or CPO vehicles, up from 48% pre-COVID⁶. These profit centers working together is key as people jump between the two segments.
      • People are paying record prices for new and used vehicles to get what they want as transaction prices are at record highs⁷. Buyers are even willing to purchase vehicles with a disregard of what color it is⁸.
  3. Upcoming sales events will fuel the fire even more
      • Regardless of inventory we don’t expect consumers demand to pull back as they are primed to seek deals out around sales events — 55% say it is the best time to buy⁹. We also don’t expect brand messaging around these sales events to hold back — they didn’t during Presidents’ Day. This will just produce more intent and again buyers will search far and wide to when needing to purchase a vehicle.

Here are three actions plus a bonus topic your dealership should keep top of mind to find success in the current market conditions.

  1. Update your Digital Ad Strategy & Message daily to meet consumer demand and reflect changing inventory
    • Dealers whose strategy moves at the speed of their inventory and vehicle offers will have a competitive edge in the market. Inventory and price are the top 2 influencers on which dealer people buy from¹⁰.  Inventory is churning at unseen rates, the time it takes to update marketing to reflect what is coming in and out of the dealership could lose potential sales. Foundation Direct has our dealers covered as we create ads with the latest inventory down to the trim and price down to the penny all in real-time.
  2. Prioritize your dollars on the highest-intent in-market demand by leveraging the best intent signals & audience data
    • Auto shoppers are entering and exiting the market everyday. Some make a decision in just weeks, while others research over months. Activating on the best, real-time audience data across devices is more important than ever. This is the reason why Foundation Direct’s strategy includes platforms like Google and Bing search to capture purchase intent as it happens — in your shoppers’ moments of highest intent; while YouTube and Facebook offer unmatched fresh in-market audience targeting that reaches 90% of auto shoppers¹¹.
  3. Shift dollars across Profit Center to support changing inventory levels
    • NADA released their 2020 Annual Report, including a breakout of dealership revenue by profit center¹². Dealer revenue breakout: 55% new vehicle, 33% used vehicle and 12% service. Looking across our dealership accounts here at Foundation Direct, our search marketing budgets nearly perfectly align at 54% new vehicle, 38% used vehicle and 8% service¹³.Foundation Direct customers only advertise on vehicles they have in stock (unless they tell us otherwise)


BONUS: You may be wondering if you should pause marketing. Here are our thoughts on why you shouldn’t.
Caveat: Foundation Direct does not take a margin on your media spend, but we want to make sure you don’t miss opportunities to connect with potential customers as demand continues to increase. 

    • Do I want to continue CAPTURING DEMAND to have conversations with potential buyers as demand continues to grow? (buyers are going to find a way to purchase a vehicle now from you or someone else). If so, review your media mix and continue with efficient strategies at the lowest part of the funnel with search and leaning into in-market audiences. Prioritize these opportunities over tactics that are CREATING DEMAND (TV ads, billboards, broad audience display targeting), which you can pull back on without sacrificing this-month’s sales.
    • Search costs are likely to drop as other dealers pull back spend — just as we saw during the first months of COVID in 2021. Dealers who kept their marketing on last year experienced lower CPCs and rebounded faster by continuing to engage with customers.
    • How can you leverage Fixed Ops to not only bring in revenue but as a lead for potential used vehicle acquisitions?

We at Foundation Direct strive to use data, technology and our expertise to deliver the best performance for our dealers. Not working with us, but interested in learning more? Reach out!



Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Ashley Lepczyk, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation Direct

Ashley Lepczyk
Chief Operating Officer

Andrew Diffenderfer, Co-Founder of Foundation Direct

Andrew Diffenderfer

Ashlyn Stewart

Ashlyn Stewart
VP of Client Experience


1 J.D. Power and LMC Automotive – “April New-Vehicle Sales to Break Record Despite Low Inventory; Buyers Will Spend More on New Vehicles Than Any Other April

2 Average of forecasts from NADA, COX Automotive, IHS Market POLK, J.D. Power Sales Data Release, Ward’s Automotive Intelligence

3 Wards Intelligence – U.S. Light Vehicle Inventory, March 2021

4 – “Car shoppers should expect high prices and limited inventory this spring

5 Google Trends, 2021 – “Dealers near me” and “Dealerships near me” searches

6 Google Dealer Guidebook 2.5

7 J.D. Power and LMC Automotive – “J.D. Power and LMC Automotive U.S. Automotive Forecast for March 2021

8 – “Buyers Snapping Up New Cars, Even If They’re the Wrong Color

9 Mintel Report – “Car Purchasing Process – US – July 2019

10 Automotive News Power Training – “Google’s Dealer Guidebook 2.5 Prepares Dealers for the Future

11 comscore Media Metrix, 2021

12  NADA DATA 2020: Annual Report

13 Foundation Direct Internal Data, 2021


Connected TV feature image

Navigating the Connected TV Space for Marketing Your Dealership

With TV Upfronts approaching and TV viewership quickly evolving, we wanted to bring you our perspective on the streaming space.

COVERED WITH FOUNDATION DIRECT: Our partners that are running video ads on YouTube with Foundation Direct have their ads appear automatically on TV screens targeting in-market auto shoppers. You may see agencies offering a variety of CTV/OTT solutions — we at Foundation Direct continue to keep media direct, simple and impactful to make sure every media dollar a dealership spends goes further. Our goal is to have dealership messaging reaching consumers across all-devices and YouTube offers 90% reach of in-market auto shoppers and is by far the #1 in reach of ad-supported OTT platforms¹ ². On average across Foundation Direct accounts we see around 20% of ads on YouTube are served on CTVs as part of our strategy to reach in-market auto shoppers across all devices at the right moment.

Before we start, we wanted to provide quick video streaming definitions rundown. Click on the images to see the addition slides.

Video Streaming Definitions Page 2







Now that’s settled let’s get into the content.

How has advertising on the TV screen evolved?:

Cord-cutting continues at an accelerated pace as 5.1M Americans cut the TV cord in 2020 resulting in an estimated 107M Americans who no longer subscribe to cable or satellite TV³. Over half of adults 18-49 in the US no longer subscribe to cable and satellite TV according to a new study by Pew Research Center⁴. On the flip side people are flocking to streaming services with nearly 70M of households stream OTT content to their TV¹ — marketers are following audiences with CTV advertising in the US increasing 25% in 2020⁵.

Here are 3 facts dealers should understand when integrating CTV into their marketing strategy:

  • Online Video — such as OTT streaming on CTVs — is one of the top influencers to CREATE DEMAND by driving action with 8-in-10 auto shoppers⁶.

The Nielsen Total Audience Report: Working From Home Special Edition August, 2020

  • The “Big 5” streaming services — Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video, Hulu, and Disney+ — collectively represent nearly 80% of all OTT streaming hours².
  • YouTube is #1 in ad-supported reach and watchtime — and one of the few OTTs to provide in-market auto shopper targeting along with scalable reach down to individual markets. YouTube reaches over 65% of CTV households compared to 11% for Crackle or PlutoTV⁷.

Here are questions dealers should be asking when exploring running ads on OTTs/CTVs:

STREAMING PLATFORMS: On which streaming OTT services will your dealership ad run on? YouTube, Hulu, PlutoTV, Crackle? How much is being spent on each? How does this mix with what you are currently buying across online video or traditional TV?

REACH AND FREQUENCY: How are you controlling for reach and frequency when buying across multiple OTTs?

AUDIENCE: Which audience am I targeting? Surrounding market? Demos such as Adults 25-54? In-market auto shoppers? Where is audience data sourced from?

COST: How much am I paying? CPM (cost-per-thousand Impressions)? How does this change based on targeting? Be wary of flat costs as rates should change based on location and audience targeting. Ask how much of your spend is going towards actual media that reaches consumers and if any fees are baked into the rates. At Foundation Direct 100% of a dealers advertising dollars go towards media and we can show you the cost efficiencies of TV vs. OTT advertising.

MEASUREMENT: How are you measuring impact of the ads? Impressions or reach and frequency? Reach penetration of the market? People don’t necessarily “click” an ad when watching OTT on CTVs, it may be best to think of it like a TV ad as it might be difficult to directly tie attribution from running ads on OTT.

Like the way we think about the automotive industry at Foundation Direct? Contact us to learn more.


Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Ashley Lepczyk, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation Direct

Ashley Lepczyk
Chief Operating Officer

Peter Leto, Foundation Direct CEO

Peter Leto
Chief Executive Officer


1comScore: Special Feature: YouTube’s Evolution in the OTT Streaming Landscape

2The Nielsen Total Audience Report: Working From Home Special Edition August, 2020 “Cord Cutting Still Nearly Double For the Big Four U.S. Pay TV Providers Over 2018”

4Pew Research Center “Cable and satellite TV use has dropped dramatically in the U.S. since 2015”

5eMarketer “OTT/CTV Advertising Will Be the Breakout Star of 2021”

6Google Dealer Guidebook 2.5

7TiVo Video Trends Report Q4 2020


Should my dealership be on DuckDuckGo?

What the DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo — a privacy focused search engine — has been receiving headlines recently for eclipsing 100M searches per day for the first time. Dealers might start wondering if they should be advertising on the growing search engine.

Let’s take a look at the data and potential of the emerging search engine.

Share of searches:

  • DuckDuckGo has 2.6% share of searches in the US. Compared to 88% for Google and 6.3% for Bing (source). This aligns to the incoming search traffic seen on automotive websites. While DuckDuckGo has recently passed 100M searches per day, Google alone sees a few billion searches per day and hundreds of millions of automotive searches per day.

Limitations for DuckDuckGo from a privacy approach:

  • Location – DuckDuckGo admits they might not have the best location data for mobile. This can be important with over half of automotive searches taking place on mobile including searches like ‘dealers near me’.
  • Search Audiences – Audience-based approaches such as smart bidding optimizations for max clicks/conversion are not possible since they do not factor in any information on the searcher.

Foundation Direct’s Take:

  • Our technology creates very relevant ads that is hyper-focused on lower-funnel keywords searched — campaigns strategies created by the Googlers who wrote the Dealer Guidebook now at Foundation Direct. Our best-in-class strategies align well with DuckDuckGo’s keyword focused approach, but DuckDuckGo is still relatively small — Bing and Yahoo have a larger search user base.
  • We suggest dealers to first review their current paid search strategy to make sure you are maximizing the demand they capture in their local market on Google and Bing. You can do this by looking at your impression share and monitoring performance for any diminishing returns.
  • For now we at Foundation Direct are taking a wait-and-see approach as we see most dealers still have opportunities to invest within their own current Google and Bing search ad accounts, but we will be monitoring DuckDuckGo’s growth.

Can you tell we are super passionate about search? Our expertise plus our tech makes our search strategy one of the best in the market and we have the proof to show it. Contact us to learn more.


Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Ashley Lepczyk, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation Direct

Ashley Lepczyk
Chief Operating Officer

A Surge of Vehicle Launches Is Coming

A record 210 vehicle launches will occur in the next three model years, from 2022-2024.¹ This is a 78% increase vs. the previous three years (2019-2021).² COVID delayed several model year launches last year, inflating the estimated 2022 model year launches to a record 77 vehicles.¹



Three Reasons Car Dealers Should Keep a Pulse on Vehicle Launches:


  1. Increase in OEM Marketing
    Automotive brands increase spend as much as 10x — upwards of $100M — during the 3- to 6-month launch window for a model launch, such as for upcoming all-new entries (e.g., Jeep Wagoneer, Cadillac Lyriq) and next-gen redesigns (e.g., 2022 Honda Civic, 2022 BMW X1).
  2. Increase in Consumer Interest
    The increase in marketing spend drives awareness and consideration, which can cause as high as 2x increase in search interest as people look to explore and purchase the launching vehicle, like when the Ford Bronco Sport launched.³
  3. Competitive Cross-Shopping
    When a vehicle launches, competitor models can also see an increase as auto shoppers cross-shop vehicles, such as when competitor models rode the wave of the 2021 Nissan Rogue launch in Q4 2020.

The Four Stages of a Launch Dealers Can Activate On:



  • Reveal — When a new entry or redesigned vehicle is revealed, usually at a major event like an auto show, or most recently at virtual events like the Chevrolet Bolt EUV reveal with Disney.
    • Work with your website provider to create a model-specific page generating excitement for the launch, accepting reservations (if available) and communicating why shoppers should buy with YOU.
    • Send the page to your Foundation Direct rep so we can begin building a remarketing list off of people who visit it.
  • Pre-Launch — The period between the Reveal and when the vehicle actually is available for purchase. Pre-Launch generally has low marketing spend and is supported with media reviews and press announcements. Dealer websites featuring content about the new model may see an uptick in traffic as people seek pricing, availability, and options to reserve. 
  • Launch — The timeframe the vehicle is actually available to purchase on dealership lots and the OEM increases marketing spend to promote the new model for awareness and consideration. 
    • This is the time for dealers to CAPTURE DEMAND from the elevated search interest caused by the increase in OEM marketing spend. Add the launching model to your Paid Search campaign to drive shoppers to relevant VDPs — this is done automatically for you with Foundation Direct as soon as the model hits your inventory feed.
  • Sustain — 3-6 months post-launch when OEM launch spend decreases to normal levels.
    • This is the time for dealers to CREATE DEMAND on YouTube and Facebook — Foundation Direct has the levers in place to activate this quickly for you. More on sustainment below.

Examples of recently launched vehicle trends


Vehicle launches stir a lot of interest in the market and provide an opportunity for dealerships to activate as early as the vehicle Reveal to engage future auto purchasers and ride the launch wave to capture auto shoppers looking to purchase.

Like the way we think about the automotive industry at Foundation Direct? Contact us to learn more.


Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Ashley Lepczyk, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation Direct

Ashley Lepczyk
Chief Operating Officer

Peter Leto, Foundation Direct CEO

Peter Leto
Chief Executive Officer

Sources: ‘Car Wars’ study says launches speeding up through 2024

2Bank of America Merrill Lynch “The US Automotive Product Pipeline Car Wars 2020-2023”

3Google Trends Data US, 2021 – Topics “Ford Bronco Sport”, “Jeep Renegade”, “Jeep Compass”, “Kia Seltos”, “Subaru Forester”

4Google Trends Data US, 2021 – Topics “Nissan Rogue”, “Toyota RAV4”, “Honda CR-V, “Ford Escape”, “Kia Sorento”


Automotive Dealership Store

Presidents’ Day, the Big Game, and Tax Season to Get 2021 Sales Rolling

Three February events will boost vehicle purchase intent from in-market auto shoppers:

1.) Automotive ads in the Big Game on Feb. 7

2.) The first sales event of 2021 with Presidents’ Day

3.) Tax season — particularly with the potential of another stimulus check. These events present dealers with a unique opportunity to engage shoppers and get momentum rolling in 2021.

What This Means for Car Dealers:

  • Opportunity to Capture Interest Demand with Search
    Automotive brands advertised during the Big Game typically benefit from significant spikes in elevated search interest in the weeks that follow  — with increases in search volume as high as an 80%.1 This gives dealers an opportunity to engage with potential shoppers for vehicles like the Toyota Highlander, which was featured last year.
  • Consumers Seeking Deals for Presidents’ Day
    Auto shoppers are primed to seek deals around sales events. Presidents’ Day is the first of the year and auto shoppers begin to seek sales two weeks prior to the holiday date,2 which is February 15th this year. Presidents’ Day and the Big Game haven’t been this close together — eight days apart — since 2016.

  • Tax Season Putting Money in Car Buyers’ Pockets
    Nearly 10% of Americans say they spend their tax refund on a major purchase, such as a car. Vehicle sales may increase as much as 30% from February through April during tax season.3

While February is one of the lowest sales months of the year, there are still hundreds of thousands of new vehicles being sold, as well as millions of used vehicles. Months like February are when dealers must get the most impact out of their advertising spend and make sure that spend drives sales. At Foundation Direct, we offer transparent and direct solutions to dealers on the largest platforms to reach automotive shoppers. We would love to tell you more, so reach out to us.


Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Peter Leto, Foundation Direct CEO

Peter Leto
Chief Executive Officer

Andrew Diffenderfer, Co-Founder of Foundation Direct

Andrew Diffenderfer


1Google Trends Data US, 2021 – Topics “Toyota Highlander”, “Hyundai Sonata”, “KIA Seltos”, “Jeep Gladiator”, “Genesis GV80”

2Google Trends Data US, 2021 – “President Day Sales’’ search term for “Autos & Vehicles’ Category

3COX Automotive “Cox Automotive Commentary: First-Half 2020 U.S. Auto Sales”


Forecasts Point to a Bright 2021 As Automotive Sales Rebound

Various analysts across the auto industry, including IHS Markit, Wards Auto, Cox Automotive, J.D. Power, and NADA, have released their new and used vehicle sales forecasts for 2021. We’ve collected the forecasts to paint a picture of what lies ahead for automotive sales in the new year.


Here is a breakdown of trends to watch in the new and used market.


Three Reasons Car Dealers Can Be Optimistic for New Sales Recovery in 2021:

  1. Better Than Expected Rebound – At the beginning of 2020, NADA forecasted 16.8M new vehicle sales,1 but once COVID hit, they reevaluated their forecast in April to 13.5M.2 2020 ended with 14.6M new vehicle sales,3 showing that the 2nd half exceeded expectations.
  2. Recovery Continues – With vaccines and stimulus checks rolling out to the country, NADA expects retail and fleet sales to continue to recover, forecasting around 15.5M new sales in 2020 and over 16M for 2022.4
  3. Low Rates to Stay – The Federal Reserve has said they have no plans to raise interest this year, which will keep rates low into 2022.5

While new vehicle sales recovery looks promising, inventory remains dynamic and uncertain. Dealers need to monitor inventory and align advertising to focus on vehicles currently in stock. Foundation Direct’s solution is designed to save dealers time and money to generate ads based on dealer inventory in real time, never wasting money on out-of-stock vehicles. 

Automotive brands pulled back marketing spend -22% YoY in 20206 while sales declined -14.5%.1 Starting in the new year, dealers should audit budgets across all profit centers and make sure they have scaled back up to meet the return in demand.


Three Reasons Car Dealers Could See an Increase in Used Sales in 2021: 

  1. Vehicle Affordability
    Increasing average transaction prices for new vehicles are pushing buyers to look at used —  in December 2020, new vehicle transaction prices hit a record high.7 This is causing new car shoppers to consider used or CPO vehicles more than they have in the past — 59% of new car purchasers considered used or CPO vehicles, up from 48% pre-COVID.8
  2. Available Inventory
    The emerging semiconductor shortage will further constrain new vehicle production. When new inventory was constrained last year, we saw used vehicle sales outpace new sales, and this has continued as we enter 2021.9
  3. Pent-Up Demand
    Used vehicle sales may increase as much as 30% from Feb.-April during tax season.10 Buyers who planned to use their tax refund to buy a vehicle in 2020 may have been delayed due to COVID. We may see that pent-up demand carry over to this tax season.

Is your dealership’s advertising spend appropriately supporting all profit centers? Foundation Direct clients’ average Paid Search budgets are distributed 54% for new, 38% for used, and 8% for service,11 which aligns to share of sales revenue by dealers reported by NADA at 53% new, 35% used, 12% service.12 At Foundation Direct, we give dealers full transparency, control, and flexibility to adjust their media budgets at any time while also generating custom ads for every vehicle a dealer has in stock. Contact us for more information.


Michael Heidner
VP of Strategy and Business Development

Ashley Lepczyk, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation Direct

Ashley Lepczyk
Chief Operating Officer

Peter Leto, Foundation Direct CEO

Peter Leto
Chief Executive Officer

Sources: “U.S. new-vehicle sales to fall to 16.8M in 2020, NADA says” “NADA slashes forecast for 2020 auto sales”

3Autonews.con “Q4 sales fall 2.4%; 2020 finishes down 14%” “NADA Issues Analysis of 2020 Auto Sales, 2021 Sales Forecast” “Fed sees interest rates staying near zero through 2022” “Ad spend retraction due to COVID-19 worse than expected: WARC”

7J.D. Power “Auto Sales Start Strong in 2021: January Retail Vehicle Sales Volumes, Transaction Prices Rise as Discounts Stay Low”

8Google Dealer Guidebook 2.5

9TrueCar’s ALG Forecasts January 2021

10COX Automotive “Cox Automotive Commentary: First-Half 2020 U.S. Auto Sales”

11Foundation Direct Internal Data, 2021. Average account budgets across New, Used and Fixed Ops profit centers


Dealers Should Prepare for Strong Automotive Sales in Q4 2020

Brace yourself for an end-of-year surge of new vehicle sales as the automotive market rebounds in Q4 2020. According to IHS Markit, December has been a top 3 month for new retail vehicle sales for the past three years, and is forecasted to be the #1-selling month in 2020; twice as many sales are forecasted in December 2020 vs April 2020.1

What This Means for Car Dealers

The increase in sales will be preceded by an increase in online research. Dealer presence online across channels such as Google, YouTube, and Facebook, which all reach a high percentage of auto shoppers, is critical to ensure you have the best chance at capturing these customers and driving those Black Friday and EOY sales. With the opportunity to capitalize on increased holiday and EOY sales, it may be prudent to consider evaluating and increasing budgets — which you may have decreased during the dip in sales in Q2-Q3 2020.

  • Start Activating Now
    Car shoppers begin to search for “Black Friday Car Deals” three to four weeks before the event as early as late October and are asking what the “best time to buy a car” is at an increasing rate through December.2
  • Capture Deal Seeker Demand
    Consumers are increasingly incorporating  “deal,” “sales,” and “offers” terms within their search queries related to new car sales around these year-end holidays. Monitor your accounts for any trending terms to add and increase bids against these keywords that can drive tangible business outcomes for your store (ex. “Honda CR-V Deals,” “Toyota RAV4 Offers.”)
  • Prepare and Watch Inventory Levels
    Vehicle inventory continues to be light in the automotive industry.3 Dealers must remain dynamic, continue to monitor inventory levels, and align advertising to what stock is available — this is what Foundation Direct technology does by allowing dealers to advertise exactly what they have on their lots quickly and easily.

Dealers must remain dynamic with their ever-changing offers and inventory while also staying in front of evolving consumer trends. Foundation Direct’s technology keeps dealers ahead and gives them a competitive advantage by quickly reacting to changes across price, offers, inventory, and auto shopper behaviors with accounts set up by a group of former Googlers. Curious and want to know more? Contact us for a pressure-free demonstration.

1IHS Markit, 2020

2Google Trends Data, “Black Friday Car Deals” and “Best Time to Buy a Car’ search trends

3COX Automotive ‘For Car Dealers It’s No Longer a Race To the Bottom, It’s a Race for Inventory’ October 1, 2020