If General Motors gets its way, we soon will think of it as the 'dot com' automaker. In an effort to exploit the Internet's popularity, GM wants to coordinate its expanding array of online vehicle shopping, automotive service and parts, and financial services.
To succeed, GM will have to demonstrate that it can move as nimbly as its newfound Silicon Valley peers. Given GM's notoriously slow-moving bureaucracy, that won't be easy.
GM insists it wants to move quickly. It says it wants to boost its OnStar subscribers from 75,000 now to 1 million by the end of next year. GM hopes to lure consumers by adding e-mail, Web browsing and other services to its core OnStar product.
Some of that will pan out, and some will not. It is clear the Internet will be a key marketing tool for pricing and comparison shopping. The Internet also clearly offers automakers an effective, low-cost link with parts suppliers.
We are less convinced that motorists want to load up their vehicles with an Internet smorgasbord of e-mail, navigation, news and entertainment. Even with voice recognition, such services distract from the primary task at hand: driving.
In any event, the marketplace will sort that out. In the long run, GM executives should remember they are in the car and truck business.
It gives us pause to see Mark Hogan - a rising young star in charge of Delta, GM's next-generation lineup of compact cars -put in charge of GM's Internet activities. Is GM giving up on small cars?
After decades of mediocrity, GM is beginning to produce well-designed cars and trucks. It cannot afford to let the Internet distract it from its overriding mission: producing the best-built vehicles on the planet. GM forgot that in the 1980s, and it is still suffering.