There's been a lot of shifting in and out of reverse for TrueCar (NASDAQ:TRUE) shareholders over the past year. The latest drive in the wrong direction for the generator of leads for auto dealerships happened last week after Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced the launch of a somewhat similar offering.
The leading online retailer unveiled Amazon Vehicles on Thursday. The new platform is a hub for folks to obtain information when they're shopping for vehicles, parts, and accessories. Finding parts and accessories for cars and trucks is old hat on the site, but the ability to scour for details on specific car models is new.
Amazon Vehicles isn't a direct attack on TrueCar's model, but it was too close for comfort. Amazon may not be working with local showrooms to provide market-based pricing on specific in-stock vehicles, but the fear here is that it won't be hard for Amazon to connect the final dot if more people lean on the portal to compare cars and get general pricing information.
Navigating through the blue highways
TrueCar has had its ups and downs since the largest member of its dealer network bolted last summer. The departure jolted TrueCar, which at the time was seemingly navigating the fine line between serving potential car buyers and providing leads to showrooms. Automakers weren't pleased that TrueCar was using local data on previous sales to negotiate a low price on remaining inventory.
When TrueCar responded to the showroom rumblings it was swift. Founding CEO Scott Painter stepped down, replaced by former AutoTrader CEO Chip Perry late last year. A couple of months later Perry blew up its model. It revamped its data-mining and price-revealing practices as part of the new TrueCar's Dealer Pledge it introduced in March. Reworking its data policies, billing model, and billing practices generally pleased automakers and their dealers, and the consensus seems to be that it won't have to alienate potential car buyers in the process. The same stock that shed 58% of its value last year and took another beating through the first few weeks of 2016 has bounced back in a major way. It has more than doubled since bottoming out in February, even after last week's tumble.
Concerns about Amazon Vehicle's arrival appear overdone. Amazon is unlikely to get into the business of selling cars or playing matchmaker. Amazon's goal in getting folks to lean on the site in seeking out car-buying research is so that it can be there for them when they need oil filters, wiper blades, and car radios. The arrival of Amazon Vehicle isn't a positive development for TrueCar, but it doesn't pose much of a threat the way that it's structured as of right now.