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Feedback on CarGurus Apology Webinar?

Retail My Ride

Getting Refreshed
Feb 14, 2020
First Name
Our thoughts - mixed feelings but mostly skeptical.

On the one hand, kudos to Sam Zales (Cargurus Pres & COO) and their executives for candor and what seemed to be a genuine public apology for screwing up. They could have easily put out a "corporate press release" and moved on, but instead they turned on the camera to let the world see and hear their message and respond to Q&A.

On the other hand, its pretty clear CarGurus (and their competition) is still hell bent on picking winners and losers as they leverage their scale and high-tech platform to expand their range of influence/control. What started out as an online automotive marketplace connecting buyers and sellers with a focus on transparency and trust appears to have evolved into controlling as many parts of the automotive retail dealer market as possible - selling, buying, inventory sourcing, financing, warranties, transport, you name it. This type of "behavior" is nothing new to retail in general. Just look at the consumer retail life-cycle from mom-and-pop merchants to shopping malls, to Walmart & Target superstores, to Amazon. Perhaps automotive retail is just finally playing catch up and what we are seeing is the natural evolution of the big players who will define and control larger pieces.

At the end of the webinar, we were left with an overall bad taste in our mouth - Cargurus (and others) are projecting a "take it or leave it" attitude toward the small-medium sized independent dealers (i.e. the very ones that make up the majority of their 35,000 paying customers). They can't answer the question - what specific things are you doing to serve and protect the small-medium sized, independent dealers that have funded your big success? Their best response is, once the beta testing with Carvana and Vroom is done and perfected, we will open everything up to allow all dealers to participate in instant offers, inventory sourcing, access to finance sources, virtual online showrooms, ship cars all over the country? Come on man. Get real. That is like using the dues of loyal members to build a lavish country club that only a handful of the richest (tech-savvy) members will be able to afford and have access to in the future. We think CarGurus should stay the hell out of the Inventory Sourcing arena. One of the best things about the auto industry is how fragmented and entrepreneurial it has remained, and that has been a good thing for car prices and buyers. According to IBISWorld, "the Used Car Dealers industry is highly fragmented, with non-employing dealerships representing more than 80% of the establishments in 2019." Do we really want a world where CarGurus and Carvana, Carmax, Autonation, Vroom, and a handful of other giants dictate car prices, supply, winners and losers etc?

CarGurus' success (3X their nearest competitor) came relatively fast because it built a "trusted and transparent marketplace" that focuses on serving the best interest of car buyers. Ironically they now seem to be on a path that would hurt car buyers the most - a marketplace dominated by fewer large sellers with no-haggle pricing and hand-picked vendors to handle all of the other moving parts. To hell with the small, independents? It will be interesting to see how many small dealers will continue their subscriptions in 2020.

Never forget this Golden Rule in the auto industry (perhaps its what guides CarGurus decisions when the cameras are turned off?):

-- "He who has the cars, wins the game." --
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Feb 18, 2020
First Name
They said would make link available but havent seen it appear on the dealer portal yet. Will post here when available.
Here is the link.

And here is the email it came with:

The biggest takeaway we'd like to emphasize is that we're listening to your concerns, and we will continue to act transparently and with integrity to be a trusted partner for your business. To reiterate:

  • We do not sell, give, or share dealers' leads with other dealers, big or small. It simply isn't part of how we do business.
  • We were working with Carvana and other national dealerships in the alpha stage of the cash offer test due to their tech capabilities and nationwide reach. We're no longer running that VDP test with Carvana. As we move into the beta test, we're looking for more dealers to participate so we can build an instant offers product that works for more dealers. Visit this page to sign up.
  • We take your feedback seriously and when we made an error with deal rating badges, we fixed it as soon as we found out.
  • Our finance partnerships with Capital One and Westlake use your existing lending relationships to move leads further down the funnel. That lets you continue to earn the same financing profits on prequalified leads. In addition, we're looking to add more lenders. Please let us know if there are other companies for us to work with that would help you.
As a company, we strive to provide a transparent experience for not just our consumers, but for our dealers, too. Our request is that you come to us directly, through your account manager or online channels, when you have questions or concerns - we'll always respond with honest feedback. Be transparent with us and we can keep improving the marketplace for you and your shoppers, to help you continue to grow your business.

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Jan 18, 2020
First Name
Sounds a lot like how Zillow took/taking out the Real Estate Agents. There shear strength in Advertising made it huge for Agents to purchase leads. Now they are moving in on being a national brokerage to remove the agents from the process. Agents still buy leads and fund Zillows growth, while they take them out the market. It was too late for MLS and Associations to remove them out of the ecosystem and now have to watch it play out.

Ryan Everson

Sr. Refresher
Mar 21, 2012
Flint, MI
First Name
Geesh, it's not been a great couple weeks for CarGurus.....last night some dealers in my 20 group got hit with $10K+ charges on their credit cards.

Maybe they needed a temporary influx of cash to make up for the drop in their stock price? lol

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