FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Before moving away from third-party lead providers earlier this year, AutoNation Inc. explored whether those companies could help the retailer seamlessly connect its online and brick-and-mortar operations.
That's why AutoNation COO Michael Maroone took a position on the TrueCar.com board of directors in September 2011.
"We thought long and hard whether third parties could be the bridge," AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson told Automotive News. "At the end of the day, we just came to a conclusion that we were the only ones who could really unify in one experience."
AutoNation had to do "a ton of work" to deliver that experience, Jackson said, including branding its stores with the AutoNation moniker, which happened during the first half of 2013.
"One of the things I learned from being with the third parties is their frustration is they couldn't control the retail experience," Maroone said.
"We have the unique ability to make the investment on the digital side and then control the retail experience."
Maroone was a TrueCar director for just less than a year, going off the board in June 2012. AutoNation said in April that it will reduce its use of third parties, which generate 13 percent of AutoNation's sales but at an expense much higher than those generated internally.
Even though AutoNation is reducing its reliance on third parties, there's still a role in the industry for them, Jackson said, pointing out that AutoNation remains TrueCar's biggest customer.
But regarding the explorations in 2011 and 2012, "we were looking for common ground, quite frankly, and came to the conclusion that common ground was limited," Jackson said.
"We have this unique opportunity to give a unified, singular, seamless experience to our customers, and we can build our own brand, AutoNation, and our own sites, and totally control the experience," he said, "and that will be a competitive advantage for us."