AutoNation Inc. will expand its pilot with TrueCar Inc., in another step toward a full reconciliation with the third-party lead provider following a bitter break in 2015.
AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson disclosed the expansion during a conference call Friday to discuss the retailer’s second-quarter earnings. The decision was the result of a July 13 meeting with TrueCar CEO Chip Perry to review the pilot program that began April 30.
The pair benchmarked results, “and it was a complete success,” Jackson said. “TrueCar has transformed itself to being really a win-win partner, and all the commitment and promises they made to us were kept 100 percent.”
The pilot originally covered 55 of AutoNation’s dealerships, including those selling Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Ford and Chrysler brands.
78 of 263 stores
The expansion began July 22 with TrueCar put in place at 23 additional stores primarily in the southern California, south Florida and Denver markets. That puts the pilot into 78 out of AutoNation’s 263 dealerships. More could be added in the coming weeks, said Marc Cannon, AutoNation chief marketing officer.
“The close rate has improved, quality of traffic has improved, and the value/pricing equation has improved” from where those metrics stood at the time AutoNation dropped TrueCar just more than a year ago, Cannon said.
That July 2015 split came after AutoNation refused TrueCar’s data-sharing demands.
TrueCar founder and CEO Scott Painter then stepped down last August and was replaced as CEO by Perry in December. In March, Perry announced that TrueCar would dismantle many of the practices that upset dealers, including the data-sharing demands that had triggered AutoNation's break.
AutoNation will review results of the expanded pilot after the third quarter. Jackson has high hopes. He said: “My expectation is, by the end of the year, TrueCar will have been implemented in all AutoNation stores.”