The latest multiple-dealer Web site has a couple of appealing new features.
U.S. Wheels, established June 18 by software companies Navidec Inc. of Denver and Dealer Marketing Services Inc. of Rock Island, Ill., offers a unique payment calculation feature for consumers and a results-oriented fee system for participating dealers.
Like other Web sites, U.S. Wheels allows consumers to browse dealerships' online inventory. But the site also has a monthly payment calculation feature that figures the value of the customer's trade-in and loan pay-off.
'Other Web sites have some of these features, but the combination is unique,' said Hal Anderson, vice president of business development. For example, Microsoft Corp.'s CarPoint has a payment calculation feature, but it does not factor in the value of the trade-in or loan balance.
Dealers pay an initial set-up fee of $500 per franchise, which includes establishing the dealer's Web page within the U.S. Wheels site. The monthly maintenance fee is $100 per month per franchise. There are two other types of charges - $25 for a full prospect profile (including name, address, phone number, fax number, hours to be contacted) and the other is a $3 look-up fee each time a consumer asks for a dealer's address and phone. U.S. Wheels limits a dealer's look-up fees to no more than $500 per month, said Anderson.
The Wheels site can be linked to a kiosk in a showroom or mall through software called ProMax. The software is compatible with dealer computer systems such as Automatic Data Processing and Reynolds and Reynolds, he said. ProMax also performs credit checks, calculates the best loan or lease rates and does lease vs. buy comparisons.
The drawback to working with U.S. Wheels is its meager inventory, says a competitor. The site displays 20,000 new and used units for 300 car dealers. A national service should have an online inventory of at least 150,000 vehicles, said Allen McGrath, Web site manager for Auto Trader Online in Norfolk, Va., which has a 250,000-used-vehicle online inventory.
But Navidec plans to start setting up sites for specific regions, beginning with a Denver Wheels program this year. It will work with a major local newspaper, radio station or TV station to sign up local dealers. This will allow Wheels to have a concentration of vehicles in a region, offering a better selection for consumers, said Anderson. Dealers who subscribe to a regional Wheels program are automatically included in the U.S. Wheels program.