Mad as hell and writing about it

Mark Ragsdale decided he wasn't gonna take it anymore.

A 19-year veteran of the Massachusetts car retailing wars, and holder of Cadillac, Chevrolet, Honda, Kia and Pontiac franchises, Ragsdale got fed up with factory games and got out of the business in 2008. He decided to write a tell-all book detailing the industry's various crimes and misdemeanors.

Called Car Wreck, Ragsdale's tome is not the first tale of how consumers get the shaft every time they buy or trade a car at a dealership. Much of the book paints dealers in a sympathetic light, caught in the tug-of-war between the factory and the customer.

Books detailing bait-and-switch incentives, upside-down loans and the secrets to leasing jam the bookshelves, but often they are told from the perspective of a muckraking consumer advocate. In telling the tale from the perspective of the dealer, Ragsdale isn't looking for sympathy, just a fair shake and understanding.

Ragsdale occasionally drifts close to conspiracy theory, and there is the occasional tirade, but for the most part he sticks close to the truth -- albeit through the filter of an injured party.

There are a couple chapters dedicated to "how the factory sticks it to the dealer." But there also is plenty of explanation of "the good, bad and ugly" personnel at dealerships, the woes of floorplanning, and even an insider's view of the GM and Chrysler bailouts by the taxpayer.

The appendixes end the diatribe, where Ragsdale offers solutions to automotive retail problems suffered by dealers, consumers and the government.

So why did Ragsdale -- whose college degree is in journalism -- buy booth space at the NADA convention to pitch this screed? He figures he can sell the book to dealers, who then can let on-the-fence customers borrow it to see an impartial, insider view of how buying a car works.

So ... does Ragsdale -- a former Kia dealer council member -- want to get back into the car business? Hell, no.

"A bad day of writing is better than a good day selling cars."

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