TrueCar turnaround bid targets consumers, dealers

SANTA MONICA, CA: Vehicle pricing site TrueCar has launched a campaign and website redesign to reposition the company as one that helps both consumers and auto dealers.

SANTA MONICA, CA: Vehicle pricing site TrueCar has launched a campaign and website redesign to reposition the company as one that helps both consumers and auto dealers.

The shift comes as TrueCar, which provides automotive information and pricing, recovers from an advertising campaign last year that turned off dealers. That effort heavily emphasized discounted car prices for consumers, which raised concern among dealers and manufacturers that TrueCar's business model was causing them to sell automobiles at a loss. As a result, TrueCar's dealer network shrunk by a third early this year, from more than 5,600 to about 3,200, and online sales fell by 80% in the first half of the year, according to company data.

“We had to change our system and the way the company thought, and we had to figure out how we were going to partner with the industry and the consumer side. We wanted to meet in the middle,” said Chintan Talati, director of media relations and corporate communications at TrueCar.

The new campaign, which includes PR, advertising, and social media, is “about how both can benefit,” Talati said. The company is reaching out to trade and business media, promoting deals through email marketing, and sharing messages about the turnaround on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Ad spots with the tagline “Let's talk truth” are airing nationally.

TrueCar unveiled a redesigned website Monday, including new text, media kits, and a dealer portal with analytical tools that help dealers get a better view of the market and price their cars more intelligently.

“Now [dealers] see exactly what the consumers see,” Talati explained.

PCGCampbell is helping with the PR portion of the campaign, while DW+H developed the advertising.

Before launching the effort, TrueCar CEO Scott Painter went on a road show in January to attempt to repair the company's relationship with dealers. TrueCar established a Dealer Council in April, comprised of 20 members representing more than 280 dealerships, that counsels the company on strategy and business. For example, TrueCar showed its ads to the council a month before they aired.

“We listen to their feedback and make changes based on that,” Talati said.

In October, TrueCar also conducted a media tour in Detroit and New York to preview its upcoming marketing.

“Usually we would do a consumer focus group, but we went to our partners instead – dealers, manufacturers, and the media,” Talati said.

The company has begun to see results from the change in strategy. By the end of the third quarter, TrueCar had rebuilt much of its dealer network to 5,200 dealers.

“We're slowly making our way back,” Talati said.

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