Category Archives: TrueCar

The Lead-Gen Death Throes

They came dancing into our lives back in the mid-’90s and totally transformed our industry. In fact, I recall the first time I saw Autobytel exhibiting at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)’s convention. I shook my head and said, “That ain’t gonna happen.”

Well, it did happen, and we all saw a growing parade of competitors in a vicious dogfight to dominate the space. My hat’s off to the few who prevailed.

The real game-changer, however, was Scott Painter and TrueCar. Painter’s business model reflected his thinly disguised contempt for car dealers. Unlike other lead-generation providers, whose primary purpose was to connect car buyers with dealers, TrueCar’s main objective was to set prices and broker deals at a loss for the dealers. We all know how that worked out.

But hundreds of other companies followed TrueCar’s lead and got into the brokering business. But the landscape is rapidly changing, and the paradigm has shifted enough to loosen their stranglehold on dealers.

Read the whole article here on F&I and Showroom.

When the Disrupter Gets Disrupted: The War and Truce Between TrueCar and Auto Dealers


10754172_10152443559713365_945968553_o(This article appears in Inc. written by Paul Keegan and mentions Jim as a dealer advocate speaking out against TrueCar.)

A few years ago, Scott Painter had it made. He was wealthy, handsome, and smart, a TED and Davos guy who hung out with Elon Musk and Richard Branson. “Everything in my life had gone unbelievably well,” he says. “Just off-the-chart success.” Over two decades, he had started dozens of companies and raised over a billion dollars in venture funding before finally hitting upon his Really Big Idea in 2005: A company eventually called TrueCar would bring price transparency to the sneaky world of auto salesmanship, and give consumers leverage by telling them exactly how much other people were paying for cars.

For car shoppers, it was nirvana: no more haggling, no more waiting for that gold-chained salesman to talk to his manager to “see what I kin do.” Instead, you just went to, typed in your Zip code and the make, model, and extras you wanted (don’t forget the fuzzy dice!), and printed out a voucher, redeemable at your local TrueCar dealer, with a guaranteed low price. It was free and easy. And dealers paid TrueCar only if the lead turned into a sale–$299 for new cars, $399 for used.

Read this whole amazing article on INC here.

True Concern: Looking Back on TrueCar Controversy

L-ZieglerBlogOne of John Lennon’s most relevant and thought-provoking lyrics can be found in the song “Beautiful Boy.” It goes: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Recently, that brilliant thought resurfaced, and its deeper significance was revealed to so many of us who missed it the first time around. See, after 38 years in this business, I am amazed at the evolution of the automotive retail industry. But I’m even more astonished when I look back at all of the failed concepts and revolutionary new trends that fizzled and went nowhere.

By the time I shut down my offices in 2008 and brought the business home, we had been in huge corporate offices for more than 20 years. As I write these words, I can vividly recall standing by a dumpster overflowing with thousands of files, folders and documents we had accumulated over the years. We had filing cabinets filled with failed projects and ideas we’d pursued and invested in that were ultimately scrapped.

One of the greatest lessons I learned experientially through the years was to beware of distractions that come to you disguised as opportunities. Not a week goes by that I am not approached with money-making propositions, affiliations and referral agreements. It usually begins with someone who wants to help me make “a ton of money.” Of course, the first clue is that they themselves don’t have a ton of money.

Read the full article on F&I Showroom here.

One Last Thrill

L-1964FordAd-LeadArtIt was slightly after dark on a September night when two buddies and I climbed the fence behind Duval Ford in Jacksonville, Fla. We hopped over with our fingers crossed, hoping no dogs were hanging around back there.

No, we weren’t burglars or vandals. The year was 1964, and we were just three high school kids trying to get a sneak peek at the new Ford Mustang. Every dealership in the country taped newspapers to their showroom windows so you couldn’t see inside, and the new inventory was parked behind the dealerships covered with tarps.

A year earlier, when the ’63 Corvette coupe — the one with the split rear window — debuted, I climbed up the side of a car hauler at a truck stop just to lift the cover and sneak a peek at the front end of the redesigned ’Vette.

Every year, new-car introductions, no matter the manufacturer, were an event — a celebration shrouded in strict security, secrecy and mystery.

Read the full article in F&I Showroom.