LOS ANGELES - Honda Division has established requirements for dealers who want sales leads from the automaker's corporate Web site. As a result, a lead might not go to the dealer who is geographically closest to a customer.
Honda will begin forwarding sales leads in the first quarter of 2000 but will start a pilot with 10 dealers nationwide in December, said Honda spokesman Art Garner.
Honda wants dealers to have:
1. A dedicated Internet sales department.
2. A specific sales process to deal with Internet customers.
3. The ability to respond to e-mail queries within a specific amount of time.
Honda says it is not playing favorites with the system. Forwarding sales leads to a dealer who doesn't know how to work the Internet most likely would lose sales, Garner said.
Dealers at national and regional meetings have supported the plan, he said.
Said Larry Kull, president of Burns-Kull Auto Group in Marlton, N.J.: 'Honda has to be careful not to create two classes of dealers, either by size, geography or operating philosophy. But at the same time, dealers have to be much more attentive to e-commerce.'
Honda's Internet requirements 'should be easy to satisfy,' Kull said.
The details are not complete, hence the need for a pilot, Garner said. Among the unanswered questions:
What if a customer has a long relationship with a certain dealer who doesn't meet Honda's Internet requirements?
What if neither the closest dealer nor the nearest Internet-ready store has the car the customer wants?
Honda also doesn't have a price-quote request feature on its site, although that is expected to change early next year.
DaimlerChrysler's Get A Quote, which enables consumers to request a quote on a new vehicle over the Internet, is available only to Five Star dealers. Five Star dealers must adopt, maintain and document best business practices.
Russ Darrow, a multifranchise dealer in West Bend, Wis., said Honda isn't likely to play favorites, especially because the company just endured a corruption scandal.
'(Honda Division General Manager) Dick Colliver is fair, credible and well-liked,' Darrow said. 'He's a decision-maker and wouldn't do anything reminiscent of problems they've had in the past.'