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TrueCar app’s growth underscores mobile’s bigger role in car purchases

TrueCar, a mobile application that links car buyers with dealers, has seen more than one million downloads since its launch last year.

The company claims that its customers’ mobile usage was higher than 40 percent at mid-year, and is continuing to increase significantly. While car purchasing typically entailed online research and offline purchasing in the past, TrueCar believes that the industry is seeing a massive shift toward seamless purchasing and selling on consumers’ mobile devices.

“What we’re going to see is a much bigger emphasis on mobile,” said Scott Painter, founder and CEO of TrueCar, Santa Monica, CA. “We had our millionth app download, which really speaks to where things will go in a couple of years. The habit of shopping online and buying offline is going to migrate.

“People will shop on phones and complete transactions at the dealership on their phones. We’re already starting to see smartphones enter into closing steps at dealerships.”

Car shopping app
The TrueCar app, available for mobile devices and tablets, was designed to eliminate stress for consumers seeking to purchase or sell vehicles, and improve the sales process for dealers certified by TrueCar.

The app’s Price Check feature, which recently launched on iOS, provides consumers the ability to receive pricing and important car information on a TrueCar certified dealer’s lot simply by scanning the vehicle’s window sticker. This feature is expected to reach Android app users later this month.

Consumers can use the app to browse for enticing vehicles, and receive a better understanding of what prices other consumers are paying for those same vehicles. They may then receive emails from local dealers carrying that specific car, and can access TrueCar’s data when viewing the car on the dealer’s lot.

TrueCar has seen 1.5 million vehicles purchased since its inception, and 500,000 purchased through its platform in the last year. The company aims to fully inform consumers prior to visiting dealerships, in order to streamline the shopping process for both sides.

“Anything that removes friction transaction is great for the retailer,” Mr. Painter said.

Car industry going mobile
Providing consumers with convenient ways of accessing data is a feature that will likely be dominating the car industry. TrueCar revealed that on average, customers using its app were in and out of a dealership within an hour, as opposed to the national average time of over three hours.

Most car manufacturers no longer produce physical brochures for their vehicles, as nearly everything is now online.

TrueCar claims that increasing accountability and transparency will improve the relationship and dynamic between dealers and consumers. While the company has seen its users save over $3,000 off of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, it aims to bolster customers’ access to accurate information, which can be done most readily via mobile.

“Consumers have changed the way they shop,” Mr. Painter said. “The consumer is going to demand to be in control of information and in control of the process more than ever before.

“Dealers need to be reactive to that. If not, they will lose customers and market share, and they won’t be competitive.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York