TrueCar's New CEO Says Top Goal to Be Mending Ties With Dealers

  • Perry built AutoTrader into a $1.5 billion marketplace
  • Co-founder Scott Painter will leave the company on Dec. 15

TrueCar Inc.’s new chief executive officer, Internet auto pioneer Chip Perry, said his top priority for the online vehicle pricing and data provider when he takes over for co-founder Scott Painter next month is to repair relations with car dealers.

The company has had contentious relations with dealers, which it charges $300 a car or a subscription fee to provide consumer leads that turn into sales in showrooms. In July, TrueCar and AutoNation Inc., the biggest U.S. new-car retailer, ended their agreement after AutoNation decided not to provide data TrueCar required to charge them for its services.

“Many dealers have had misgivings about working with TrueCar,” Perry said in an interview Monday after his hiring was announced. “My goal is going to be to earn their trust back by listening to them and building their feedback into our future plans.”

Perry, 62, is taking on the TrueCar job amid the company’s loss of two auto-industry veterans. Larry Dominique, a former Nissan Motor Co. executive, is stepping down as an executive vice president next month and John Krafcik, former head of Hyundai Motor Co.’s U.S. operations, left as president in September to lead Google Inc.’s self-driving car project. Painter will step down as CEO on Dec. 15 and will also resign as chairman and a director, after TrueCar said in August that he would keep the chairman post.

Perry was the first employee at AutoTrader.com in 1997 and built it into the world’s largest online vehicle marketplace with $1.5 billion in revenue, TrueCar said in a statement. He resigned from AutoTrader in 2013 after it withdrew a plan for an initial public offering. Since July of this year, he has been CEO of RentPath LLC, parent of ApartmentGuide.com and Rent.com.

“Scott did an amazing job getting TrueCar to this stage and for him to step aside does enable a clean, new chapter to open up,” Perry said. “To be able to signal a clean sheet of paper in terms of how we work with car dealers will be very helpful.”

TrueCar’s shares gained 5.7 percent to $7.83 at 3:42 p.m. New York time. The Santa Monica, California-based company’s stock slid 68 percent this year through Friday, including a 36 percent plunge on July 24 after cutting its 2015 sales forecast.

The company may need “some adjustments to the business model” to get its dealer relations and stock price turned around, Perry said. Six million people a month now visit TrueCar’s website and 10,000 dealers a day interact with the company’s marketing tools, he said.

“We’ll be able to come up with an action plan that works for car dealers and makes TrueCar a friendlier, stronger, better marketing partner,” Perry said.

He said he plans to begin visiting dealer showrooms in his first week on the job, with AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson one of the first he wants to meet.

“I’m hoping we can find a way to work together again,” Perry said. “It will be an important priority to build a bridge that AutoNation would be comfortable crossing.”

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