There's "no need for a digital marketplace to have that kind of impact," Perry said. "TrueCar needs to be a positive force for the entire industry."
In addition, TrueCar will show users who have submitted contact information prices for specific vehicle identification numbers, not for virtual vehicles. The site will show more localized price ranges for vehicles, reducing the odds that an outlying price from a distant dealership skews the curve. The site's price listings also will no longer show dealer cash incentives to consumers as part of the vehicle prices.
TrueCar also will enable dealerships to promote their brands through its site.
"We believe at a core level, even though a new car is somewhat of a commodity, a deal is not a commodity," Perry said. The deal includes the trade-in, financing and the purchase experience. "If you take that as a principle, you want the dealer to be able to tell their story in a positive way."
Most of the changes are effective immediately for consumers accessing the TrueCar site on computers. Applying the changes to mobile devices may take a little longer, but in general should be finished during the second quarter. Some of the new, more pro-dealer advertising messages will roll out in the second half.
Perry sought to reassure dealers regarding future TrueCar finance and insurance and trade-in products, writing in his letter that TrueCar "will not offer third-party direct finance products" through its site. Any trade-in product, he added, "will be based on a well-accepted wholesale valuation and will be offered on a dealer opt-in basis."
TrueCar also is addressing concerns dealers had about how it uses customer data. First, it will purge from its databases all nonpublic consumer data received from participating dealers that has not been matched to a purchase after 90 days. Second, it will commission an accounting firm to monitor its pledge to keep its hands off dealership data unless authorized by dealers.
Currently, if a dealer signs up for TrueCar's Sales Analyzer service and grants permission, a third party pulls sales data from stores' dealership management system computers, removes identifying information and provides the data to TrueCar for analysis. But TrueCar faced rumors that it was going into dealerships' computers and pulling data without permission, a point that Perry vehemently denied.
Hiring the accounting firm will "validate that we're sticking to this policy," he said.
"Once and for all," he said, he wants to "put a nail in this one."