DETROIT -- Mark O'Neil, CEO of Dealertrack Technologies, is trying to provide dealerships an alternative to powerful online shopping sites.
The sites, such as TrueCar Inc., Edmunds.com, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com, provide millions of leads to dealers. But critics say they do so by building their own brands, too.
O'Neil said here last week that Dealertrack, whose roots are in online credit applications, stays in the background and does not advertise its own brand to consumers.
Choosing a partner for online shopping is increasingly important for dealers as car buyers flock to websites for information and vehicles. Meanwhile, software companies are developing increasingly sophisticated tools to help dealers find leads, stock inventory and sell vehicles.
Tension between dealers and online shopping sites burst into the open in April when AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson vowed to reduce AutoNation's reliance on third-party leads. He plans to strengthen his group's websites and digital marketing through a $100 million, multiyear branding initiative.
Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said: "There's no reason in the world to have any third party stand between you and your customer." He spoke last month at Automotive News' Best Dealerships To Work For event.