Chip Perry, the visionary who was asked by Cox in 1997 to facilitate its own disruption with the launch of AutoTrader –going right after its print classified revenues — has resigned as President and CEO of Cox Enterprise’s AutoTrader Group.
Manheim Auto President Sanford (Sandy) Schwartz will now take the helm along with his existing duties. Schwartz previously led Cox Media Group, and is well versed in digital services, personally heading a major Cox initiative on local search.
AutoTrader.com remains the #1 online B2C auto site. But since 2010, when it began seriously exploring the IPO market, it has greatly expanded its operations via a vertical acquisition (Kelley Blue Book) and auto industry software (vAuto, CDMdata, HomeNet Automotive, and VinSolutions.) AutoTrader Group grosses over $1 billion a year.
Prior to his position with AutoTrader, Perry led several digital initiatives at Times Mirror. He has been a true pioneer in the development of vertical online media, making up the rules for what a vertical site should be as he went along. His personal style has also been unique. Any walk through the hallways of AutoTrader’s headquarters with Perry was a joyful exercise in Meet and Greet – he knows almost everyone.
Inside the industry, he is known as a very tough competitor who doesn’t give an inch. The same attitude was reflected in his relations with industry analysts. He challenges every critical comment, but is personally gracious at all times. A model top executive, he could often be found sitting in the back at BIA/Kelsey conferences and auto industry events, taking it all in and ready to exchange ideas with just about anyone.
Some Favorite “Chip Perryisms” Over the Years
• The secret to success in the auto space is to “focus on unmet needs.” When it comes to auto sites, what people want are “cars, inventory and specials.”
• “We always operate on the assumption that horizontal companies are coming after us.”
• Online’s real value is that it is closing the information gap. “The biggest gap was making used cars visible. We used to have three percent of them visible; now we have 50 percent.”
• The automotive industry is “an influencing medium rather than a direct response medium. The fundamental role of an intermediary is to influence consumers.”
Image: Atlanta Business Journal