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From Los Angeles, Chip Perry said his goal as the new CEO of TrueCar Inc. will be to win back the trust of auto dealers.
Perry, 62, who helped build AutoTrader from a start-up venture into a $1 billion shopping site, was named CEO of TrueCar earlier today. He replaces Scott Painter, who announced his resignation as CEO in August following a period of tumult at the online car-shopping service he founded.
“I believe there are many ways in which TrueCar can better serve car dealers and my goal will be to earn their trust back and to listen to them," Perry said in an interview with Automotive News today. "It’s going to start with a deep examination of all touch points TrueCar has with dealers today."
Perry joined AutoTrader as its first employee in 1997 and was CEO until 2013. In that time, AutoTrader rose to become the Internet’s largest third-party vehicle shopping site, with $1 billion in annual revenue.
As CEO, Perry oversaw a series of acquisitions at AutoTrader, including Kelley Blue Book, VinSolutions, vAuto and HomeNet Automotive, companies that now form the backbone of the Cox Automotive group.
"When you run a digital marketplace company, the largest one in the industry, you learn a lot," Perry said in the interview. "You learn that you need to build the business in a very balanced way that benefits the dealer and the consumer. You can’t tilt the market place too dramatically in either direction."
"There is tremendous room for improvement in how that balance is struck at TrueCar."
Today's announcement comes as TrueCar winds down a year full of headlines, headwinds and executive departures. Under Painter’s direction, the company had a bitter -- and public -- falling out with AutoNation Inc., the country’s largest dealership chain that saw the dealer group pull its 279 stores out of TrueCar’s network over the summer.
Painter stepped down as TrueCar announced disappointing second-quarter earnings and amid questions over if and how larger dealer groups were sharing customer transaction data with TrueCar.
In the months since Painter’s resignation, TrueCar President John Krafcik left to oversee Google’s self-driving car project, and Larry Dominique, vice president of industry solutions, announced that he was leaving.
Amid the search for a new CEO, TrueCar executives acknowledged that the company needed to patch relations with dealers and hunkered down to quietly develop additional tools for dealers to help them close more sales.
Results from the third quarter were more encouraging.
Despite losing a total of 600 dealerships from its network, TrueCar set a record for vehicles sold through its dealer partners and Web traffic to its site.
Total revenue rose 28 percent in the quarter to $72.4 million. It posted a net loss of $11.1 million.
“There’s a lot of room for many more dealers in the network and for existing dealers to benefit from this kind of system once it’s adjusted to meet their needs," Perry said. "I don’t know what those adjustments are, I just know in my bones there are plenty of ways to improve for dealers.”
"I’m not religious about the business model per se," he added. "I believe what is there today is solid but I’m sure we’ll find improvement that’s beneficial to TrueCar and the dealers."
Before joining AutoTrader, Perry worked in Los Angeles for the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and at the business development arm of the Los Angeles Times. After leaving AutoTrader in 2013, Perry was president and CEO of RentPath.
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