General Motors is fighting independent, third-party online buying services by cooperating with Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com.
Third-party buying services send online shoppers to dealerships for a fee. They say manufacturers' buying services, such as GM BuyPower, are too biased to appeal to informed Internet shoppers.
GM acknowledges most shoppers prefer to get information about GM vehicles from an independent source, and the company is willing to meet consumers at Web sites where they are most comfortable.
So GM will launch co-branded sites with Kelley and Edmunds. The sites, to be launched in the second quarter of this year, will combine independent information with a convenient, immediate way to shop for GM vehicles. The new approach is expected to build trust with consumers.
While GM BuyPower had 3 million visitors last year, Kelley had 30 million and Edmunds had 10 million, said Leo Drew, director of operations for GM BuyPower.
The co-branded sites will let consumers compare GM vehicles to those of any competitor. Consumers also will be able to build a vehicle to their specifications and search for it in local dealers' inventory. The site will offer the most up-to-date incentive information on specific vehicles by vehicle identification number.
GM takes a risk in promoting its vehicles with independent information services but feels this is a risk worth taking. The company finds shoppers are more likely to buy if given immediate access to price quotes and dealer inventory.
In other dot-com news:
CarsDirect.com, an online auto broker in Los Angeles, has introduced a 'zero-drive-off' lease to qualified customers in 39 states to take delivery of a new vehicle with no money down. CarsDirect.com also signed a deal to become the exclusive online provider of new-vehicle buying and leasing services for Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
Eighty-two percent of car shoppers who visit dealer Web sites prefer dealerships to initiate contact by e-mail rather than by phone, according to a study by Cincinnati research firm Friedman-Swift Associates and Cobalt Group, a Seattle-based Internet software provider.
Donna Harris can be reached at [email protected] or at (202) 662-7218