Cox Enterprises announced today that Chip Perry will be replaced by Sandy Schwartz as the head of AutoTrader Group, effective May 1. Schwartz will also retain his position as the leader of Manheim, giving him control of all the Automotive units within Cox Enterprises. The official release was complementary of Perry, but one could write a book about what he has done building AutoTrader.com and the AutoTrader Group over the past 16 years.
Chip Perry was the first employee of AutoTrader.com, when he was asked to create the product in 1997. Until then, automotive Internet was a lead generation business, pioneered by Autobytel. Chip had the foresight to know that penetration would be the key. The relationship with Manheim was leveraged to quickly get thousands of vehicles up online. Under Chip’s leadership, AutoTrader.com never gave up its leadership role in this space.
In recent years, AutoTrader.com has ballooned into AutoTrader Group, with acquisitions like vAuto, VinSolutions, and HomeNet. Some dealers feel they pay too much for AutoTrader.com, but there is no denying the majority of franchised dealers use the product. Whatever you feel about AutoTrader Group and Chip Perry, if you met the man even once, you felt his energy and have a story to tell. What will you remember most about Chip, and where do you think Sandy Schwartz will take things from here?