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Data is king for vendor TrueCar

January 23, 2012
Knowledge, Sir Francis Bacon observed in the 16th century, is power. For TrueCar, knowledge comes from the data it extracts from dealer DMS systems.
But dealers who use TrueCar are not obligated to provide the Internet auto shopping service with open access to their customer data. Instead, they can limit details to customer name and address, and vehicle identification number. 
Indeed, one dealer said, “all they ask for is confirmation that the car is sold, so they can collect their $299” for leads that turn into sales.
Dealers who use TrueCar should have their office managers review what access the dealership provides to the vendor.
Protecting the personal information of customers also helps dealers abide with privacy and safeguarding rules.
Note that the Chicago Automobile Trade Association is not involved in any communications that urge dealers to avoid or sever a relationship with TrueCar.
The lead generation service counts a reported 5,200 dealership franchises in 49 states. But TrueCar has suspended service in some states and changed its fee structure in others, amid charges that it violates advertising regulations and other state laws. The Illinois attorney general’s office has not issued an opinion on TrueCar’s practices.
Earlier this month, TrueCar said it will drop fees that it charges participating Viginia dealers when they sell autos from TrueCar leads. State regulators there had ruled that the fees violate Virginia’s ban on bird-dogging—paying fees to third parties for leads that turn into sales.
Instead, TrueCar will charge participating dealers a subscription fee not tied to sales. The company did not announce terms of the subscription plan. Illinois does not have bird-dog laws or brokering laws—another contention against TrueCar.
The CATA appealed to the Illinois attorney general that TrueCar might be violating state advertising regulations by using the term “invoice” and failing to include a vehicle stock number or all costs in the advertised vehicle price.
That invites a bait-and-switch, some say, when a consumer who has been quoted a specific price arrives at a dealership to find the vehicle already sold or otherwise unavailable, and the dealer then tries to sell a different vehicle.
In a statement, the company said: “TrueCar is not a broker, traditional advertiser or lead generation company. We do not arrange or negotiate sales for dealers, nor do we advertise vehicles for sale. Rather, TrueCar is an Internet marketing company—the dealer’s window through the Internet to customers searching for vehicles.”