TrueCar to launch new customer experience, brand campaign

TrueCar Inc. plans to launch a revamped consumer experience and a rebranding campaign early next year as it works to return the company to growth.

The Santa Monica, Calif., online vehicle marketplace reported Thursday a deeper net loss in the third quarter than it had a year ago. The company lost $7.7 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to a loss of $6.3 million in the same quarter last year.

Revenue fell 3.2 percent to $90.6 million for the quarter, mostly due to less revenue from automaker incentives, according to the company’s financial statements.

Interim CEO Mike Darrow told analysts on an earnings call Thursday that he sees momentum in company results, but “we recognize there’s more work to do to return this business to sustainable double-digit growth.”

TrueCar added 162 franchised dealer points since a year ago, bringing the total to 12,711 in the quarter. TrueCar said it calculates its franchised dealer figure by counting the number of brands sold at each location signed up with the company.

The company’s independent dealer count also increased year over year.

But TrueCar reported a 3.8 percent drop in the number of average unique monthly visitors, to 7.7 million, while the number of vehicles sold to TrueCar users from the company’s partner dealerships remained flat at close to 268,000.

Darrow, interim CEO since June when former TrueCar CEO Chip Perry retired, said on the earnings call that the company’s board continues to evaluate candidates for the permanent CEO job and “expects to wrap up this process before the end of the first quarter” of 2020.

TrueCar plans to roll out an improved customer experience early in the first quarter of 2020 that should lead to better customer satisfaction and higher-quality leads for the company’s dealer partners, Darrow said.

That will coincide with a new brand campaign. Darrow declined to provide specific details on both initiatives but said the rebranding is designed to appeal specifically to millennial shoppers and women, citing research that shows large or growing participation by those groups in vehicle-buying decisions.

“The new brand is modern,” Darrow said. “It’s exciting.”