AutoNation Inc. is severing ties with TrueCar Inc. following a protracted contract dispute centered on access to customer information.
AutoNation, the country’s largest new-car retailer, informed TrueCar executives Thursday that its dealerships would stop using the Internet vehicle shopping service at the end of July. On Friday, AutoNation said it would move up the termination date to Tuesday, July 15.
Today, 226 of AutoNation’s 240 U.S. dealerships use TrueCar’s services.
The split had been foreshadowed. In April 2014, AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said the retailer planned to de-emphasize third-party lead providers such as TrueCar, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com, as it strengthened its own website and digital presence to build traffic and sales.
But Jackson laid the blame for the break at TrueCar’s feet.
“TrueCar has made some onerous demands in its new contract negotiations with us that are unprecedented in my 45 years in business and are unconscionable and unacceptable,” Jackson told Automotive News. “We cannot agree to them.”
In contrast, Jackson said he has no intention of dropping other third-party providers at this time.
TrueCar founder and CEO Scott Painter portrayed the split as the result of philosophical differences.
“Our partnership with AutoNation just turned into, in a very real sense, a choice for the consumer,” TrueCar founder and CEO Scott Painter told Automotive News. “It really makes them our competition.”
Consumers who want “truth, transparency, an up-front price” will do business with TrueCar, he said, while those who want to buy cars in a traditional manner will go to AutoNation.