Capitalizing on each unit's brand equity, AutoTrader and Kelley will maintain distinct websites and market positions but share data and other resources, Rowe said.
He said the new structure will help dealers more effectively present their products to consumers, which in turn helps create a more customized experience in the showroom. That is critical because consumers do more of their shopping online and less in the showroom, he added. "We think we are uniquely positioned to help the dealer tell their story to consumers, which is a form of personalization," said Rowe, who was president of AutoTrader for a year before his promotion this month.
He led Kelley for two and a half years before joining AutoTrader. He also was a founding member of the leadership team at FordDirect, a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and its dealers to help dealers establish a more effective online presence.
Rowe said there will be "more shared context" between AutoTrader and Kelley. For example, AutoTrader's Trade-In Marketplace, which generates cash offers for consumers' vehicle trade-ins, will use Kelley values and be rebranded "KBB Instant Cash Offer."
That allows AutoTrader to leverage Kelley's reputation as a trusted source for used-vehicle values. That is important because "the trade-in process is the least satisfying aspect of purchasing a vehicle," Rowe said.
Cox Automotive Media began piloting Kelley-branded cash offers Sept. 2 and will test it for "two or three weeks" before rolling it out nationally in the fourth quarter, a spokesman said.
Steve Lind, former president of Kelley, is now executive vice president of operations for Cox Automotive Media and will move to Atlanta, where the new division is based. Kelley maintains its base in Irvine, Calif.