Another night of being up late...thinking about work, personal life, work...and of course this whole TrueCar debate.  I'm not sure if this it's a good or bad thing that for the past two hours I have been catching up on all of the blogs, videos, phone conversations recorded etc.

Now, before I state my thoughts on this.  I realize that there are a few close friends and mentors in the automotive online network here that may have a different opinion.  I am the type of person however, that is open minded and have read for hours upon hours and done alot of research on everyones opinions on this the past few weeks. It seems the majority, including as mentioned close affiliates of mine, that are ready to KILL THE BEAST.  It does amaze me how it started off as Jim's facebook status and now it is becoming a revolution it seems. 

Here is my own PERSONAL EXPERIENCE on it.  I realize several of you are GM's, owners of dealerships, trainers etc.  I work on the line so to speak.  I get to deal with internet customers all day, everyday. 

When I first moved into the internet department, it took a little bit of learning to get away from learning a specific system.  The cliche is that internet customers are all about price. 

When I first got into this business and was on the line at a Ford Dealership in San Diego, I had no sales experience.  I was a coffee barista before that but was motivated enough to learn the business and find what works, and what doesnt work.  My first day I walked other dealerships lots as a customer and discovered quickly the stereotyped "car sales person." 

When I first moved into the internet department...I was trained to make a phone call, write an email and set an appointment.  This would be great if it actually worked the first time what did I do? I wanted to learn.  I made fake emails, and I "walked to dealerships lots" but online.  I mystery shopped.  Doing this I discovered what I did not like.

In doing this, I quickly discovered that most ISM's are sending out auto responders.  When you spend a day mystery shopping, you discover that there is so much automation in our business that eventually it all looks THE SAME.  I also found dealerships sending out quotes first time around on a car that again, would be automated.  I shopped for a "Honda Civic" DX (this is the entry level with no air or radio!).  Dealerships were sending me your typical automated response asking for an appointment or "when I could come in to get a really good deal", or sending me a price quote without even asking or verifying "are you looking for a DX Civic or do you like to have air conditiioning and a radio?"

Then my theory went back to my roots BE DIFFERENT! DO SOMETHING that you will be REMEMBERED FOR. STAND OUT.  When I was on the front line (reflecting back to San Diego, prior to being in internet) I got all that time waiting out on the pad with the sun beaming on my face, with my uncomfortable heels, waiting for that one up.  (we were on a rotation).  During this time when you are waiting and waiting for the up-you go through an un explainable mental self motivating game.  If you are in this business you motivate yourself enough so that when you do get that up you are ON YOUR GAME. 

With the internet it is no different.  I started a process:  EXCEEDING (and truly exceeding) what I knew customers were not getting anywhere else.  I make a phone call, send them a personal video message, write them a handwritten postcard and in doing this the customers DID CALL back, or they DID WRITE back.  Why?  I can't tell you how many times "Elise we really loved your video and postcard." 

Now..back to the topic of truecar.  This is where as a person who does like to do the creative side of things in this business like the videos and postcards...the truecar prices started to come up.  There were those customers who when were not a truecar dealership-customers had a USAA price that they wanted us to match so I would offer a time for them to visit with me where they could bring in their certificate.  Once the customer got there I was able to see all the dealerships who had these close to invoice or even back of invoice prices.

These customers even though we were not a truecar certified dealer at the time, would still try and give us "the shot" to match the "best price."

But at this point, the customer usually has a rapport with me via the videos and postcards Ive sent.  I would sit down with their bell shart and three prices, and BEST price and do the SALES PROCESS with them.

We have all heard of an evidence manual.  I have one with a biography on me, awards on the product (Honda), handwritten customer testimonials, photos of my customers and toward the back of this evidence manual I have evidence. 

BUMP STICKERS.  YES, a truecar dealer could have a price $700 back of invoice but this is an actual markup sticker I xeroxed when we have traded with that dealer.  This dealer accessorizes their vehicles with over $1,995 of accessories.  Right by that mark up sticker I have copied yelp, dealerrater, google reviews with ACTUAL customers stating that the accessories were "non negotiable."

I have several bump stickers copied, several yelp reviews and true actual facts.  Now, I did speak with a truecar rep who stated that dealerships on the program are not supposed to have accessories forced upon the customer...but I know that it happens. 

What else do I have in my evidence manual?  Actual emails from dealerships when I mystery shop telling lies-wether it be what is available, or not giving an out the door price, or lying about having the vehicle in stock etc. 

As a sales person-BRING VALUE to the table.  Show them why if they really drive 169 miles out the price on the best truecar price is a loser deal and SHOW them the games and tricks that several dealerships will play.

It got to the point where we did sign up about two months ago with Truecar.  It has been profitable with us. 

To state some facts with my own personal experience on it:  we are usually the third or second most expensive price on true car.  We are never the BEST PRICE.

What is funny about this is WHY, if it is ALL about price have I been getting customers that will drive 300 miles and pass the other two better priced TRUE CAR dealers to come and buy from me?  My PRICE is higher.  I sometimes even have to get the vehicle on a trade-so its not about inventory or having it in stock.

My real theory-is that I put value to the table.  Now, yes-often times, it takes the extra mile.  All the sales people at my store says sometimes I go to great lengths to just make a mini or close to a mini.  For me-I get a kick out of it.  MY TIME IS VALUABLE.  If I make a video message, write an email, even make a call-that a moment of MY time that is being taken.  If I give up because its "another truecar" customer...then Ive wasted even second with this customer. 

As far as truecar pulling DMS files:  I have heard Scott Painter state several statements, more recently in a phone conversation that I was listening to where he says he does not use the DMS to create that pricing. 

He also says that he is not a broker, because dealers create their own pricing.

"Elise how can you sleep with the devil? "-I could be wrong, as I am not perfect-but I have been a dealership not on it, and as Grant said its there already and change is happening.  Wether I use it or not, its still there.  Now I realize that Honda is telling dealerships to not advertise below invoice on truecar-and I completely agree with that.  Selling a Honda below invoice or advertising for below invoice is ridiculous. 

I think the truecar/clearbook needs some tweeks to be done still...but it has been profitable for us, and has been a great lead source-even though as mentioned my truecar price is NEVER the lowest, or race to the bottom and as mentioned in the past two months since we have been on it-i have gotten customers drive past the other two truecar dealerships to pay MORE for the SAME car but buy it from me.

CREATE AN EXPERIENCE that has no pricetag. I don't see truecar going away, and if it does-there will always be another company right behind it.

Its late....and I know this has been such a big debate online and wanted to put in my 2 cents. 


Feel free to leave comments. 

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Comment by Elise Kephart on January 19, 2012 at 9:43am

Just checking back into this blog-its been up for a little over a month now. 

From my post, it seems as if TrueCar has been slaughtered up and down by many states and they have now modified it taking out words like "best local price"...and giving the "red zone" for "below dealer cost".

I do not agree with the DMS pulls and privacy issues with "truecar"-however it's common sense to know that if "Truecar" gets killed-the next person will take the "transparency" idea of "truecar" and modify it so it is 100% legal for the consumer.

Based even off of this "bell chart" a "great price" is priced a couple hundred back of invoice for a HONDA.  Since there is $500 dealer cash on this price, and you can "bump" for accessories-isn't this a deal IF YOU HAD TO, you would take anyways on a walkin who triangulated a best price anyways?

Comment by Chris Saraceno on January 5, 2012 at 10:33pm

Wow,3368 views that is the Second most viewed Blog ever on dE.

Comment by Steve Richards on January 3, 2012 at 3:31pm

So, if I've done the math correctly, the dealers who have hooked up will pay TrueCar $299 for a super mini-deal. I'm guessing that the sales person isn't getting $299 for showing, demonstrating, and delivering the vehicle. And how motivated will that same sales person be to create any type of relationship with a customer who is only interested in paying peanuts? SSI? CSI? Give me a break, it doesn't mean a damn thing and even the good sales people I know won't go out of their way to help a customer who is only intent on grinding them and their dealer. And don't give me the garbage about the opportunity for F&I and service revenue. A sales person doesn’t give a s*** because they don’t get paid on service revenue and they get a small percentage of F&I revenue. Why don’t F&I and service give their products away? There’s an idea Scott, do for F&I and service what you want to do to the sales side. I’d like to hear from sales people working in stores that use TrueCar; has your dealer raised the “flat” or “mini” commission to $299 to match TrueCar’s fee?

Repeat? Referrals? Aren’t you supposed to make more profit on the second sale because of the way you “took care” of the customer? Nope, blows up that business model. Maybe this works for Scott, he makes his millions. Maybe it works for the dealers, they make their millions. Maybe it works for the factory, what do they care if it moves metal? Maybe it works for the consumer, they don’t pay much profit now anyway? Few people grow up wanting to be in car sales now. Why would anyone want to work in this environment? 

Comment by David T. Gould on January 2, 2012 at 7:43pm

This is the first dealer "protection statement" (my wording) of any kind that I have seen from TrueCar... they must be hurting bad to buckle on their stance of dealers being solely responsible for their behavior / contracts. I am not surprised by this... It looks like a continuation of TrueCar's stalling their demise long enough to reach the IPO to cash in.

From Jay's automotive news TrueCar's responses; 

On Dec. 29, TrueCar added this statement:

TrueCar is committed to operating our service in compliance with state and federal laws. Throughout our history we have worked with state regulators and where issues were raised, constructively found solutions to those concerns. TrueCar continues to work directly with regulators to ensure that at no time will our dealer partners be in violation of any laws by participating on the TrueCar network. In fact we're in the process of making meaningful changes to the service, which will be completed by the end of January 2012, in order to address specific concerns raised by regulators. In the meantime, no fines or penalties have been levied against TrueCar or any of our dealer partners as a result of these inquiries, there has been no mandated prohibition of TrueCar services in any state and there have been no lawsuits filed against TrueCar. We remain committed to regulatory compliance, transparency and the success of our dealer partners and consumers.

Read more:

Comment by James A. Ziegler on January 2, 2012 at 5:42pm

This is an email from man who is a second generation dealer and a great friend of mine for 20 years...  If TrueCar gets their way, this is the fate most dealers will suffer, at least that's my perception of probability.

Name Withheld:

A Virginia Dealer Principal writes...

This hurts my pride to say, but I'd like to tell you bluntly. Feel free to send to all your dealer friends. 

For 10 years in a row, my Buick-GMC store has been GREAT. Top CSI, decent grosses, great reputation. Many of my managers and staff have been here 10 years.  We always did business honestly, hence our repeat business is very high, and carried us thru the dark days of 2008 and 2009. 

My staff was happy. Not wealthy, but making a good living. Ordering "Outback" for dinner at night, paying their rents and living was a pleasure to come to work. 

2 years ago we signed up for TrueCar and initially, we LOVED the few extra deals. TrueCar also became the "gatekeeper" for USAA customers so in my heavy military-area, we needed access to those customers. 

Today, WE ARE ON OUR KNEES. It's New Year's Eve right now and usually, we high-five each other, exchange hugs, and pats on the back on a good year. But tonite, we're dejected. Our grosses were KILLED via True-Car. We've TOTALLY stopped selling value and service.  Most of my best salesmen have had to take pay advances from me just to provide Christmas for their families. 

We were a prosperous business, and due to TrueCar, we are DESTROYED now and have to rebuild.

Comment by Pete Obuchon on January 2, 2012 at 3:34pm

Good afternoon all- Has anyone gone to Yahoo Autos since Sunday 1/1 to see the TrueCar branding? I searched for a 2012 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT. What came up was the TrueCar pricing (no surprise there) but on th right hand side was a Chevy Corporate AD! (Thanks Mark Reuss for the help). When I clicked "Locate Dealer" the local dealer (my former employer) didn't even come up. What came up was a page saying that there were no dealers locally. Maybe I should look at a Ford instead... Thanks again Mr. Reuss, great advertising strategy! Click on these links to see my local results.... Cruze Search Results Dealer Search Results

Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 2, 2012 at 2:59pm

Here's that pesky text again on that page where Vehix is listed:  "TrueCar obtains data directly from car dealers, respected dealer management system (DMS) providers, and well-known data aggregators within the automotive space. "

Comment by Mike Warwick on January 2, 2012 at 2:57pm

Vehix is listed as a "Distribution Partner" on Truecar's website -

Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 2, 2012 at 2:31pm

I think it was Mike Warwick who I read that mentioned Vehix and TrueCar.  Hmmm.  Look at this--I guess they've got some kind of agreement with Vehix now, too?

Comment by Jay Prassel on January 2, 2012 at 1:44pm

What TrueCar says - Auto News:

I have these articles in PDF form if anyone needs them.

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