Chrysler moves to upgrade dealer Web sites

DETROIT — Chrysler LLC has chosen Dealer.com to upgrade its Internet and dealer marketing efforts.

A key goal: giving dealers better-quality online leads. Chrysler hopes the initiative will catapult its dealers ahead of the competition in using the Internet to track down customers.

The effort, spearheaded by Chrysler global marketing chief Deborah Meyer, rolls out Oct. 1. Meyer, who believes automotive marketing is shifting dramatically toward the Internet, lured a couple of Ford Motor Co. Internet pros to help kick-start Chry-sler's program

Chrysler says the Dealer.com Web sites will:

-- Be found easily by search engines.

-- Provide significant increases in dealer Web site and Internet lead traffic.

-- Let dealers customize their sites.

-- Mesh with Chrysler's brand Web sites.

-- Give dealers better access to Chrysler's huge storage of data, including vehicle photos, video and inventory listings.

Chrysler is moving away from a factory-funded program. The company still will subsidize Internet service, but dealers will pay part of the cost, choosing one of three packages. The program is voluntary, but dealers will pay 40 to 60 percent less than they would pay third-party providers on the open market, Chrysler says.

Better sites
Chrysler says new dealer Web sites will
• Be found easily by search engines
• Provide significant increases in dealer Web site and Internet lead traffic
• Let dealers customize their Web sites
• Mesh with Chrysler's brand Web sites
• Give dealers better access to Chrysler data, including vehicle photos and inventory listings

Cut confusion

Chuck Sullivan, director of Chrysler interactive marketing, said the program should eliminate much of the confusion between multiple dealer and factory sites.

"If you go to many of our dealer sites today, they do not link directly to the brand site," Sullivan said.

Link to 'mother ship'

Chrysler dealers still can maintain their own Web sites. But the Dealer.com Web sites will be the only sites that integrate with the automaker's brand sites, says Dean Evans, chief marketing officer of Dealer.com, of Burlington, Vt.

Dealers without a Dealer.com Web site won't be able to get leads from the Chrysler brand Web sites, Evans says.

Dealer.com will offer third-party lead management. It will buy, aggregate, clean and eliminate duplicate Internet leads from third-party automotive Web sites and sell these leads to Chrysler dealers. Chrysler will deliver these leads to the dealership's lead-management software tool of choice.

Cutting guesswork

Wes Lutz, owner of Extreme Dodge in Jackson, Mich., and a member of Chrysler's dealer Internet advisory board, said the new agreement will be "huge" for dealers because it will take the guesswork out of sales leads.

Chrysler has enlisted two key former Ford Internet team members to launch its initiative.

Sullivan, 52, joined Chrysler in May after a stint at Organic, an agency owned by Omnicom — which also owns BBDO, Chrysler's primary ad agency. Before that, he was head of interactive for the Ford brand.

Sullivan then helped Chrysler retain the services of Steve St. Andre, formerly head of Ford Direct and now CEO of Shift Digital, a suburban Detroit consulting firm. St. Andre is working for Chrysler on contract.

Sullivan said Chrysler will roll out the program in early October, starting with its southeast business center in Orlando, Fla.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@autonews.com

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