TrueCar is rolling out new digital retail tools for dealers, including payment and trade-in calculators. It began offering the tools this week to franchise dealer clients.

The offer will extend to independent dealers by the end of the year, the company said in a statement.

A plethora of major marketplaces and digital vendors already offer digital retail tools like the ones TrueCar is rolling out. But the company hopes it can gain clients by offering the tools free of charge for franchise clients.

TrueCar’s tools go up against similar ones offered by Cars.com and Cox Automotive, both of which offer DR capability on dealer websites as well as on the companies’ respective auto marketplaces. CarGurus, the leading U.S. marketplace by traffic, competes with a financing widget that allows shoppers to prequalify for car loans from three national lenders based on soft pulls of shopper credit records.

TrueCar, which piloted the tools with 2,500 dealerships over the last several months, said it yielded a “significant lift” in close rates during testing. The guinea-pig users included some AutoNation stores, TrueCar said.

The payments tool has the following capabilities:

  • pulls in the retailers’ vehicle-specific pricing and allows shoppers to customize their payment specifications
  • enables more precise payment estimates to avoid surprises that sometimes arise when the shopper goes into the dealership
  • automatically pulls in most automaker incentives and rebates and state-level taxes 
  • integration with TrueCar’s Create Offer tool 
  • dealer badging on the TrueCar marketplace to let consumers know the dealer uses the tool

The trade-in tool has these features:

  • 17-digit, VIN-specific evaluation tool 
  • Ability to make real-time adjustments to the vehicle value, which helps consumers understand the basis of the offer
  • provides dealers with a list of common problems specific to specific vehicle models
  • A transparent and proprietary daily depreciation calculation that lets dealers know how quickly they should sell a trade-in
  • dealer badging. 

TrueCar is somewhat late to the digital retail game. The company accelerated the development of its products after acquiring Dealer Science in December 2018 for $27 million U.S. It’s rolled the online suite out in three phases, culminating with this season’s market-wide launch. 

At the end of the last quarter, TrueCar had 11,267 franchise-dealer clients and 4,131 independents.

In an investors presentation last spring, TrueCar reported in-house research showing that 76% of shoppers would like to calculate and compare monthly payments online compared to just 18% of car buyers who actually did so.

“Consumer demand for digital retailing is no longer debatable,” Mike Darrow, TrueCar’s president and CEO, said in the product announcement. “While we recognize that not all consumers want to shop 100% digitally or 100% offline, most consumers today fall somewhere along that spectrum and would like to complete more and more of the deal online. The key is providing options.” 

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