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Gene McDonald, Founder of Pricing Guide Black Book, Passes Away

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Black Book Founder Gene McDonald DiesBlack Book
  • Gene McDonald, founder of Black Book pricing guides, has died.

  • McDonald saw the need for a precise vehicle valuation source when he was working at a car dealership in 1955.

  • The Black Book grew to become an indispensible tool for anyone in the retail car industry.


Back before the internet, before there were computers, before you could get just about any information in the history of the world on a device you carry in your pocket, there was Gene McDonald and the Black Book New Car Invoice Guide, which you could also carry around in your pocket.

Eugene "Gene" McDonald, co-founder and former president of National Auto Research (NAR), known widely as Black Book, died July 1 at 96.

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McDonald co-founded Black Book in 1955 with a vision to create a practical tool for car buyers, and his innovative work ensured that the book of wholesale auction values would fit concisely into a shirt pocket.

It did just that.

Then Black Book grew to cover all kinds of pricing, from used car auction prices to lists of new car prices with their options spelled out. The publication now lists its services as follows:

Black Book is a leading provider of vehicle valuation data and analytics. It serves… lenders, insurance companies, auctions, manufacturers, and dealerships (with) detailed data on new and used cars, light trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, personal watercraft, and heavy-duty commercial trucks and trailers. This data is used throughout the vehicle lifecycle, from loan origination and portfolio risk analysis to remarketing and trade-in values.

Black Book now incorporates pricing and vehicle values for just about any transaction in the retail auto industry: wholesale values, retail values, trade-in values, and history-adjusted values, the latter four indices being available on just one Black Book desktop API called “Used Car – Price Point.” There are many others you can buy at blackbook.com.

Our favorite was always “Cars of Particular Interest,” which shows values for collector cars dating back to 1946. Back before the internet, we at Autoweek always had a copy of the Black Book floating around the office to accurately review prices of the new cars we wrote about. Manufacturers often didn’t parse out options packages, trim levels or delivery charges. Black Book did.

Now that it’s a digital world, there’s still a need to know precise prices and values. Black Book, now owned by Hearst (the same publisher that owns Autoweek), offers it all through a myriad of services.

But it all started when Gene McDonald saw a need for a pricing guide when he worked at an independent car dealership almost 70 years ago.

“Gene was an exceptional leader whose groundbreaking work in co-founding National Auto Research, which became Black Book, transformed the automotive industry,” said Hearst President and CEO Steven R. Swartz. “His pioneering work with Black Book set new standards in the industry and were foundational to our growing transportation business. We will forever be grateful for his vision.”

McDonald retired from full-time work at Black Book in 1994 but continued to work with the company until 2006. Get Cars of Particular Interest before you buy your next collector car—it might save you some money. If it does, give a tip of the torque wrench to ol’ Gene McDonald.