Which Automotive CMS is Right For Your Dealership?

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Dealerships find themselves in a unique situation when it comes to choosing a Content Management System. There are several automotive car dealership-specific CMS platforms, and each one has its own way of hosting the content you want to display to customers. Some sites require code while others do not. Some sites are responsive (meaning they will adjust layout for mobile), while others are adaptive (meaning you will have to make two different layouts for desktop pages and mobile pages).
Whether or not a CMS is right for your business is based your abilities and knowledge around web development and marketing. If you don’t have a specialist or agency with the knowledge to make your vision for your site come to life, the best option for your dealership is likely a platform that does not require code like CDK. However, if you have experience or will be using someone who does, a platform like Dealer Inspire might be the best solution. In this article, we’ll help you decide which CMS is best for your dealership.

What to Look for in an Automotive Content Management System?

Each automotive content management system is unique. When searching for the best option, you should be looking for a CMS that will work with your dealership and manufacturer to help deliver the best options for you. In many cases, manufacturers may already have a relationship with a company, and require their dealers to use the same CMS. But in case you have a choice, one of the options below will fit in the structure that you are looking for.


Dealer.com (DDC) is a very popular, adaptive website owned by their parent company, COX automotive. It has been around for many years with a large list of clients from all manufacturers. The DDC content management system is very easy even if you don’t have a lot of experience with web development. Ideally, you should know some HTML to create the best pages, but most of the site can be managed with no coding knowledge.

However, the adaptive design is not Google’s favorite, and can affect your SEO ranking to some extent. While they do offer a couple of different widgets, they are very limited and none include the ability to add inventories to pages. You will have to rely on the customer support team to help a lot, but they are fairly quick and easy to work with.


  • Easy to use
  • Fast customer service
  • Easy to navigate the back end
  • Allows you to build separate mobile pages
  • Offers HTML coding and an easy to use page builder


  • Regular errors when logging in
  • Adaptive site instead of responsive
  • Restricts some code
  • Code is hard to read
  • Lack of widgets
  • Have to rely on support for some requests


CDK is a platform used by Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Lexus, that does not use any coding. The card system they utilize allows for user to enter in their information, and change the look of their pages with a click of a button. While the card system may have several of features, it can be complex to learn. There is a series of tutorial videos you get access to in CDKU, that can show you how to create much more interesting page designs with using any HTML.

However, the card structure does not allow for much customization beyond the design. Any spacing or sizes that CDK has put into their cards is pretty much the way it will be laid out. Not to mention that trying to build a page on CDK has numerous unnecessary steps that make the time it takes to edit a page longer than other CMS platforms. CDK is designed for dealerships that are not going to be using a person in house or an agency to help build their site. If you have other plans, CDK is not your best option.


  • No coding necessary
  • Card format makes small changes
  • Responsive site
  • Store OEM banners/offers in the back end
  • Lots of different widgets are accessible
  • Personalization shows user more relevant content


  • CDK format does not allow for much customization
  • Extra steps makes site updating slow
  • Regular glitches and errors
  • Slow customer service
  • Complexity of CMS can be confusing
  • Will sometimes not allow some formatting
  • Page changes do not always go live immediately

Dealer Inspire

Dealer Inspire is a responsive CMS that allows users to edit websites with code or through a page builder. It runs off of the WordPress format, a platform in which experienced developers, bloggers, and SEOs are familiar. Dealer Inspire allows users to add in forms and inventories with small code snippets, but does not offer widgets in the way that Dealer.com or CDK. Experience developers are able to customize the site more than most of Dealer Inspires competitors in a way that Dealer.com or CDK do. This can pay off for your digital strategy in the long run. Not to mention, the CMS makes it really easy to add in inventories, use dynamic numbers, and customize your site with out the help of support. But if you have any questions, the support staff at Dealer Inspire is one of the most helpful of any CMS available.

The menu can be difficult to navigate at first, but once you figure out where to find everything you are set. Unfortunately, they do not have relationships with manufacturer like Dealer.com or CDK. But, if you are planning on using an SEO Agency or an in house specialist, Dealer Inspire is likely your best choice.


  • WordPress format is easy and familiar to experienced professionals
  • Responsive site
  • Customer service is relatively quick and helpful
  • Code snippets allow you to easily add inventories, forms, etc.
  • Shows you how title tags will display on Google


  • Menus can be difficult to navigate
  • Page editor block the top navigation when logged in
  • Must have responsive coding knowledge

Naked Lime

Naked Lime is smaller than the previously mentioned content management systems, but that doesn’t count them out. The CMS is adaptive and does not use any coding. Their extensive widget format allows users to make very customer friendly pages not only a mobile and desktop version of a page, but also offer layout changes for different screen sizes like tablets. Unlike Dealer.com, you can link the desktop and mobile version of the widgets, so if you need to make a change to your content, you only have to make it once. While the adaptive design is not ideal, Naked Lime has at least made it easy for the user to work with.

Unfortunately, Naked Lime can take some time to learn and does not have the ability to make tables. If Naked Lime is your choice, make sure you add everything to mobile as well. If you do not copy all of the widgets over to mobile, you can end up with a completely blank mobile page.


  • No coding knowledge necessary
  • Lots of accessible widgets
  • Easy to adjust spacing and make your site unique
  • Mobile builder is very comprehensive


  • Not a responsive site
  • Learning all of the ins and outs can be a long process
  • Page builder misses some main features like building tables
  • Does not automatically build the mobile page for you

Dealer Fire

Dealer Fire is a fairly easy to use responsive website. It is very similar to the way Dealer Inspire is laid out. Meta information and URL slugs are easy to access from the page that you are editing. Pages are easy to find and edit in the backend of the website.

When building new pages, there are a few extra steps. You have to create the page, then publish it, change the URL slug, and then you can save the page to go live. Once that has been done, it may take a while until the page goes live. Not to mention that their support team, Dealer Socket, can be a little slow responding to request, but they are generally helpful once they start the case.


  • Fairly easy to use
  • Easy to access meta data on every page
  • Responsive website design


  • Responsive coding knowledge necessary
  • Customer service can be slow
  • The navigation is not easy to adjust
  • Updates can take a while

Choosing Your Content Management System

Before you decide on a content management system for your dealership, take the time to figure out what your digital plans are. Who will be in charge of managing the website and what knowledge do they have? Evaluate how your current CMS is working for your dealership. If you don’t like your current system, you might consider a migration. Just keep in mind that migrating to a new CMS will not only hurt your short term ranking, but there is a possibility that your number of clicks may not return to the numbers that they were at before.

Make your decision after evaluating what the future of your digital marketing looks like. Whatever the situation you find yourself in, there are a variety of content management systems, and each is designed to fit different dealerships needs. Luckily, the digital team at Aronson Advertising can help you decide on a CMS and manage your website. Contact our agency or give us a call at 847-297-1700 to get started!

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About the author: Tony Esposito

Tony Esposito
Tony has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Carthage College. He currently works at Aronson Advertising as a Strategist on the SEO team.

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