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TrueCar.com is on its way out.  That's not to say that it's back to business as usual.

Consumer information regarding vehicle prices, for car shoppers in the purchase funnel, is a valuable thing.  It's why TrueCar, Edmunds, KBB are still in business, and why dealer-facing sites like vAuto are equally valuable to us.  The OEMs also want us to be clear and upfront regarding pricing in our responses to sales leads.

It's a process that can be easily warped, because, in a "race to the bottom" (which isn't over), traditional dealers can use online channels to promise lower and lower prices, then employ strategies to recover profit once the customer is in the showroom and the deal is in motion.

Advertising that omits or simply places on separated web pages destination charges, that subtracts hypothetical dealer incentives, regardless of how applicable or stackable they are, means that regardless of the prices listed online, a customer still needs to go through a showroom process to really find out how much he or she has to pay.  Whether TrueCar stays or goes, online advertising is likely to undergo a new level of regulatory scrutiny.  As is vendor access to transactional data. 

Transparency is good thing, but not when we're talking about protecting the privacy of customer data.  The fallacy of TrueCar was in supporting the old school advertising model, pretending to be the new school, and bragging about how a sales transaction leaves a footprint of data "a mile wide."

Others are hoping to be flying under the radar and/or tightening up their disclosures.  How's that going to work out?

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Comment by Tom Gorham on January 14, 2012 at 5:14pm

Thanks Josh.  We thought for years that the Internet allowed local businesses to go global... and now, paradoxically, we find that it allows gobal to go local.  I think it's not so much the mom and pop aspect, but that "everybody knows me" through online word-of-mouth marketing. Through Social Media and online reviews, we become accessible as human beings rather than faceless businesses. 

As they used to say in Cheers, "...you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came".  That's the image we need to project in our dealings with customers. 

Comment by Kathi Kruse on January 13, 2012 at 10:53am

Jason, were we brother and sister in another life? You're saying things I think nearly everyday. In fact, the part about "We don't have anything in common yet. I need more information and trust." is better than I could ever hope to say it. Do you blog? I'd love to connect with you on FB, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.

Comment by Jason Manning on January 12, 2012 at 8:56pm
I had an employee hand me a paper she put together on how to avoid being spammed. I reminded her that our customers who truly know us will never block us. There is no shortcut to a customer relationship. It is built. With Social Media, we have been given some of the greatest forums to show people who we are and what we have to offer. Spam, to me, is just a label you receive when a customer is saying to themselves, "We don't have anything in common yet. I need more information and trust.". Granted, her paper was helpful, but there is a lot missing in our Social relationships and marketing.
Comment by Kathi Kruse on January 12, 2012 at 1:22pm

Could agree more Josh and Jason. Social Media marketing and blogging establishes lasting relationships with the customer that, in many cases, trumps price. Think about it: When you buy from someone you know, that gives you the best service you've ever had, price becomes secondary.


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Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on January 11, 2012 at 4:11pm

Jason, a modern mom-and-pop business that's all about personal integrity and one-to-one relationships feels way more comfortable and looks way more appealing to me, and a dealership can scale that as big as it needs to.  Online is a great arena in which to make that happen, and it's a better use of our resources, I agree.

Comment by Jason Manning on January 11, 2012 at 3:53pm
Work to grow a Local Business. This has been directed to businesses for years now. Embrace Social Media. Have blogs. Have 3rd party rating accounts. Etc... Go Local and TrueCar like companies will go away. Why haven't we grasped this simple concept? Build local trust with walkaround videos on YouTube. Again, I will say this again: It takes Time, Talent and Effort. Get started now.

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