Michael Miller, general manager of Pioneer Park Mitsubishi-Hyundai-Kia in Peoria, Ill., compares his dealership's efforts in developing its Web site with an infant learning to walk - small steps forward with plenty of hesitation and evaluation time in between.
'Learning how to best use the Internet seemsto be trial and error,' Miller says.
The Pioneer Park outlet is one of eight Illinois and Florida dealerships principally owned by Joseph O'Brien, new chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
Although sales generated from having a Web page are unlikely to dominate the car business soon, dealers should not hesitate to get online, says Dave Stear, Internet marketing consultant for Pioneer Park.
'In my opinion, a dealership needs to consider Internet marketing today,' says Stear, who manages the site.
'Having just an e-mail account and being linked with a car-buying service is certainly better than nothing,' Stear says. 'However, with the direction electronic commerce is going, the competition is intense and the dealerships with user-friendly and informative Web sites will certainly have an edge over those without them.'
The Pioneer Park site lists current inventory of new and used vehicles, places to make service appointments and order parts, highlights of particular vehicles and current dealer and manufacturer specials.
Current inventory on any site should be revised at least twice a week, Spear says. A dealership should assign a person to field inquiries and manage inventory and special offers.
The site should be attractive graphically and interesting yet not annoying, Spear says. It must be user-friendly with easy viewing and navigating and must provide several avenues for accessing information in a timely manner.