The 1 Graph That Completely Killed TrueCar, Inc.'s Second Quarter

It's been a terrible year for TrueCar investors, there's no question. The Santa Monica-based company's stock price has spiraled down 76% since the calendar rolled over to 2015. TrueCar co-founder Scott Painter took the fault for TrueCar failing to meet expectations and admitted it was time for a change as he announced he would be stepping down from his position as CEO when a replacement is found.

It's certainly been a rough 2015 for the company, but how bad was its second quarter, really?

At first glance If you weren't following closely and were simply flipping through TrueCar's Q2 slide deck starting from the top, things didn't appear terrible at first. Despite missing expectations, TrueCar posted record total revenue of $65.3 million and record transaction revenue of $60.4 million during the second quarter, which was a nearly 30% gain compared to last year.

Source: TrueCar's Q2 presentation.

TrueCar users purchased more than 190,000 units from the company's certified dealership network, which was a healthy 27% increase over last year's second quarter. TrueCar-branded channel units surged 46% to more than 82,000. The company also increased its market share by 19%, or 60 basis points, from 3.4% to 4% in the second quarter compared to last year. Even its overall traffic significantly increased 42%, to 6 million average monthly unique visitors.

Source: TrueCar's Q2 presentation.

In late July, TrueCar's stock price plunged nearly 40% in one trading day because management held a preliminary conference call warning that the second-quarter results would fall short of expectations. Management revised full-year revenue guidance to check in between $252 million and $258 million rather than the previous forecast of $280 million and $290 million.TrueCar was growing, but it wasn't growing as fast as management had forecast, and the real graph that killed TrueCar's second quarter was its adjusted EBITDA.

Source: TrueCar's Q2 presentation.

Mega-ouch As previously mentioned, if you hadn't been following TrueCar closely, you would have considered it a decent quarter until you hit slide 11, when the adjusted EBITDA was like a smack upside the head. It was a staggering drop year over year and an even worse plunge sequentially from the first quarter. It quickly put an end to the strong adjusted-EBITDA performances in the past three quarters, and TrueCar remained unprofitable in non-GAAP and net loss figures: negative $0.05 per share and negative $0.18 per share, respectively.

There's no question TrueCar dropped the ball, and these results not only disappointed investors but scared many away. The truth is, this is a very risky stock and business to own. The company's potential growth is tantalizing if the new CEO can figure out how to balance TrueCar's relationships with certified dealerships while making sure the company receives its fair share of payments for purchase leads, as well as rolling out new services in the years to come, such as TrueTrade in 2016.

TrueCar will look wildly different three to five years down the line, and it's likely we'll look back at mid-2015 as either the beginning of the end or the best buying opportunity of the company's young life. Do your homework before jumping into TrueCar as an investment, and be sure to have a long-term mind-set, because even at this low price, this is a very high-risk, high-reward opportunity.

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Daniel Miller owns shares of TrueCar. The Motley Fool recommends TrueCar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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