Scott Painter has never been one to readily yield to his critics, but with state regulators taking aim and a series of huge legal battles looming across the country, the Internet car sales pioneer has backed down, announcing “sweeping changes” to the way his latest venture, TrueCar.com, operates.
The service has generated significant buzz – and plenty of traffic – since its launch, promising to provide consumers with what it has claimed to be the most accurate pricing data online. Dealers, in turn, were provided an alternative model to attract customers. Instead of paying for leads, as is the case with most online auto sites, they only paid a $300 fee whenever a car was actually sold.
TrueCar’s approach has generated strong support in some quarters – but plenty of criticism elsewhere. And angry dealers, always a force to be reckoned with, were able to rally support in a number of states where TrueCar appeared to be running afoul of strict franchising laws. Notably, states like Texas and Virginia bar so-called “bird-dogging,” or auto brokering, where a third party steps in to help a customer get a better price.