The old macho way of doing business may not work if automakers want to compete online.
That's what auto industry representatives were told at a recent e-business seminar in Dearborn, Mich. The execs were told to embrace their 'feminine sides' and develop honest relationships as more customers turn to online services for information, price quotes and dealer referrals - across all brands, makes and models.
The seminar, sponsored by Oracle Corp., a global supplier of database-management software, focused on how to use the Internet to expand markets, improve efficiencies and retain customers. For automakers, said seminar presenter Carl Lehmann, that means creating Web sites that go beyond offering pictures and prices to presenting real services.
As an example, Lehmann, an analyst with META Group, an Internet research and consulting organization in Westborough, Mass., cited Ford Motor Co.'s OwnerConnection and BuyerConnection sites, which he said have gone beyond the electronic brochure stage. Ford lessees, for example, can use Owner-Connection to review their accounts and explore lease buyout options, whenever and as often as they want. And Lehmann said General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are making huge investments to try to make their sites more customer focused.
So can automakers evolve their macho-based culture and thrive in the emotional atmosphere of the Internet? Analysts say the jury is still out, but it won't be easy.