GM to help dealers pick software
DETROIT -- General Motors is rolling out a program to help dealers choose the best software vendors to plug into their dealership management systems.
Starting early next year, GM will certify providers of customer-relationship management software, finance and insurance programs and other products in a bid to steer dealers to the offerings that can make their lives easier.
"It's about identifying those vendors that dealers believe add value," says Chuck Thomson, GM's general manager of retail sales support. "Who are the good vendors? Then we focus on helping the dealer integrate those pieces."
The certification process is the next phase in GM's Integrated Dealer Management System, which was started in 2006 as a way to offer dealers a broader choice of DMS providers.
In a significant change to that program, GM will no longer negotiate deals with DMS providers on behalf of its dealers. Dealers had been able to go through GM to purchase dealer management systems from a handful of approved vendors.
Ed Vogt, GM's general director of retail digital, data operations and dealer systems, says competition among DMS providers has expanded to the point that it's not necessary for GM to negotiate contracts on dealers' behalf.
"We're finding that dealers can get a competitive price on their own," Vogt says.
The new initiative, dubbed the Dealer Technology Assistance Program, is meant to help dealers evaluate pitches from the hundreds of software vendors that peddle stand-alone solutions for everything from lead generation to parts-inventory optimization. Those programs sometimes don't work as advertised and often don't mesh seamlessly with dealers' own management systems.
Early next year, GM will establish a Web portal to help dealers vet vendors. GM has begun the process of deciding which vendors will earn its stamp of approval.
It can be "incredibly confusing" for dealers to determine which vendors' offerings are worthwhile and which ones can be integrated, says Paul Gillrie, a consultant in Wesley Chapel, Fla., who works with dealerships on information technology issues.
"I think the question for dealers will be: 'Is GM qualified to evaluate these second- and third-tier vendors?'" Gillrie says.
Vogt says GM will rely largely on feedback from dealers to determine which vendors to certify.
GM also will help dealers integrate stand-alone software programs. Today, a salesperson might have to log into multiple systems -- say, an inventory-management tool, an F&I application and a program that crunches lease and financing terms -- to complete one sale.
"We want to make it easier for our dealers to do business with us," Thomson says. "That will translate to a better customer experience."
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