AutoNation Inc. will tout the name of its Web site nationwide instead of promoting a national retail brand for its new-car dealerships.
'AutoNationdirect.com is the flag of the company,' said Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation. 'This will be the national umbrella over local market names.'
Billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga founded AutoNation with ambitious plans to create a national retail brand. But the company has underachieved, and Jackson was hired last fall to refocus the company's business plan.
In each metro market, AutoNation plans to promote its local retail names. National brand promotion will be reserved for AutoNationdirect.com.
'The goal will be to have strong local market brand names where we have above a substantial, say, 15 percent market share,' Jackson said. 'Auto retailing is a local business and will remain so. But in the e-world we will build a national e-name.'
The decision to boost the Web site is sure to please dealerships that are using AutoNationdirect.com to sell vehicles. AutoNation has licensed 25 dealership groups, with 146 franchises, to use AutoNationdirect.com.
Moreover, the licensees now don't have to worry about competing with an AutoNation branded store in their local markets while they promote AutoNationdirect.com.
AutoNationdirect.com's advertising will increase, Jackson said, but he declined to be specific.
Meanwhile, the company also has begun using the Internet to improve inventory management. All of the chain's general managers have access to AutoNation's online inventory. Using the Web site, they can locate vehicles at other dealerships within the network and arrange dealer swaps to fill customer requests.
To encourage the swaps, AutoNation has tied general managers' compensation to the performance of their district, rather than their individual stores. The old pay plan discouraged swaps because the stores would lose potential sales.
The company eventually will apply online inventory management to parts.