Major automakers and dealership groups often require that their dealers work with particular vendors for services. Typically, they suggest three or four companies.
Penske Automotive Group surveys the market regularly, said Terri Mulcahey, senior vice president of marketing and business development. Typically the company receives requests to review vendors from an automaker or a dealer. Leaders from various departments complete an "exhaustive view" of the vendor, which includes product capability, references and potential return on investment.
After Penske narrows down the vendor choices, it has a bidding process. Then Penske launches a pilot at several stores before making a decision.
Some dealers learn about vendors from dealer publications.
Cook calls vendors he has read about and asks for a list of local dealers that use the service.
He wants references he knows from his area to ensure that he can trust the vendor.
Dealers also meet vendors at functions such as National Automobile Dealers Association convention.
"You talk to somebody, and they follow you forever," said David Tefft, director of sales for Mitchell Auto Group in Connecticut. But "when push comes to shove, you have price, service and relationships."
Even with so many vendor choices, some dealers battle with vendors that don't understand the automotive industry. Sometimes, when a major automaker partners with a relatively small vendor, dealers end up training the vendors' new hires, Cook said.
"Some little company gets the bid and hires 3,000 people because Chevy wants it done yesterday," he said.
Many vendors understand the product, but they don't understand the automotive business.