John Holt Cobalt Founder

Putting the ‘C’ in CDK

The year was 1995. John Holt and Geof Barker had just been laid off. The Internet was in its infancy and they felt it might be important.

They decided that the Internet could reduce inefficiencies in connecting buyers and sellers in markets then dominated by classified advertising – verticals such as real estate, automobiles and boats. In a one room office on Post Alley in the middle of Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market, The Cobalt Group was born on St. Patrick’s Day, with the goal of revolutionizing the way people bought and sold cars. While other Internet start-ups focused on cutting the dealer out of the transaction, Cobalt focused on making connections – connecting shoppers with the dealer and connecting manufacturers with their dealers to provide the shopper a consistent experience.

The early going was difficult. As John would remark later, they were right in identifying the opportunity, but about 10 years early in the timing. Credit cards were maxed out. Staff worked without paychecks.

A key early milestone was the company’s success in securing the endorsement of Lexus to deliver websites for its entire dealer network, causing the company to build unique technology to align marketing execution from the manufacturer to the region to the dealer. This landmark alignment model would become the fuel for much of the company’s later success.

The rest is history. Over the years, the company’s solutions have evolved from website technology to an integrated digital marketing and advertising platform, joining ADP Dealer Services in 2010. ADP Dealer Services and Cobalt cemented their status as the the largest global provider of integrated information technology and digital marketing solutions in the automotive retail industry in October, 2014 when the two formed CDK Global.

From its founding to today, vision and innovation have helped CDK Digital Marketing become and remain the country’s most successful provider of automotive digital marketing solutions.

Now, CDK Digital Marketing, together with CDK Global, understands the new consumer purchase journey better than anyone. This knowledge is the foundation for all of our interconnected solutions.

You’re invited to be a part of what’s next.

Let’s go.


Our client-centric culture is a way of life. From the Dealer Feedback wall prominently displayed in the cafeteria, to the Dealer Boot Camp training every new hire attends, to our NPS survey and ongoing customer satisfaction surveys, to hosting frequent dealer events, we don’t just say we care what about dealers; we show it.

These are just a few examples; a client-centric focus is the lynchpin of every team meeting, every product roadmap, and every employee action, day in and day out.

The Dealer Appreciation party is all about giving our clients the VIP treatment. From spectacular views, gourmet food and drink, and an opportunity to hobnob with our executive leadership team, this unique event is a special time to personally connect with our clientele.
Don’t take our word that dealers love working with us, see for yourself in this inspiring video. This video is a product of a fun Facebook campaign designed to let dealers weigh in on everything they love about us, from our innovative products to our all-star Advocates.