TrueCar, a digital dealer based in California, is the nation’s “easiest, most efficient and transparent online destination for buying and selling new and used vehicles.” On this episode of Inside Automotive, CBT News anchor Jim Fitzpatrick is joined once again by Mike Darrow, president and CEO of TrueCar, to discuss the DrivenToDrive initiative and his perspective on the new and used market.
Dealers serve an important role in their communities as pillars of support for charities, non-profits and other good causes. As one of the nation’s largest digital retailers, TrueCar has the ability to contribute even more to the welfare of others. Recently, the company partnered with the massive dealership group AutoNation and wear blue: run to remember, an organization recognizing the sacrifices of our armed forces, to hold its ninth DrivenToDrive initiative. During the event, held to honor relatives of departed service members, Darrow oversaw a vehicle giveaway to Hannah Parmar, the daughter of Army Sergeant First Class Abraham Parmar. Her father served the country for 21 years, but, on his sixth deployment, suffered a traumatic head injury while on duty, eventually leading to his death in October 2019. “Truly, this program is the most fulfilling piece of work I get to do,” remarks Darrow. “[Hannah] is such a humble, amazing person, and all of the folks who end up being recipients of a vehicle are…just so appreciative, I just wish we could do more with it.”
Switching gears to talk business, Darrow notes that TrueCar customers have been impacted by the same economic headwinds affecting most dealers. Car buyers have increasingly struggled to afford vehicles as rising prices, interest rates and inflation take their toll on consumer finances. Furthermore, while inventory is returning, the variations between model availability and manufacturer output have made it difficult to stock high-demand units. “New car prices are still high, we’re beginning to rebuild supply, but it’s a little slower than we thought,” remarks Darrow. “Pre-COVID, there were between 3.5 to 4 million new cars in dealer inventory; it got below a million in 2022, built up to about 1.7 [million], so it’s starting to come back to a more balanced market. But prices are still very high, and affordability is a big issue for the shoppers on our site.”
The affordability crisis has also affected demand in vehicle retail. “The American fleet is aging every month because…the discretionary buyers have been pushed to the sidelines.” continues Darrow. As car manufacturers continue to release expensive models in favor of budget-friendly options, many consumers will turn to the used market or elect to hold onto their outdated products until forced to change. Despite these obstacles, TrueCar has still seen signs of activity. “Our industry creates buyers every month because cars age, they break down, they need to be replaced, the maintenance costs go up, so there is activity going on,” remarks Darrow, adding, “and I think there’s a lot of demand out there if we can get this affordability issue addressed.”