General Motors will change its vehicle ordering method during the first quarter of 2001 by relying on dealers to order vehicles instead of a computer.
GM rolled out its Vehicle Order Management System, or VOMS, to Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile and Pontiac dealers in 1998. Since then, GM has relied on computer-based formulas to configure vehicles for GM dealers.
The automaker's goal was to reduce vehicle inventories by predicting what vehicles and packaging options customers wanted.
But the problem is that the computer's picks rarely match what the dealers want. Dealers are changing more than 70 percent of their computer-generated orders, said Bob Muiter, director of distribution for GM vehicle sales, service and marketing.
Muiter said GM has worked out a plan with dealers to return option configuring to the dealers.
Starting with first quarter of 2001, GM will tell dealers what vehicles and options they have earned for the month, based on dealers' past sales. Dealers will use that list to order and configure the vehicles they want.
GM dealers have struggled with VOMS from the outset. Initially, the system was slow and provided limited solutions for daily dealership situations such as filling sold orders.
'The original VOMS system was too unresponsive. It didn't give the dealer the flexibility he needs,' said Ed Levy, co-owner of Golling Pontiac-GMC in Lake Orion, Mich. Levy is on the GM National Dealer Council's VOMS committee.
During the last two years, GM has fine-tuned VOMS. But computer-generated orders have remained a sore spot.
Many GM dealers either disagree with the VOMS-generated vehicle configurations or just feel more comfortable changing the orders, Muiter said.
Levy and other dealers say VOMS became a push system, where the manufacturer was forcing what it could make that week on the dealers. Many dealers also looked at the computer-generated orders as GM's way of telling them that it knew their local markets better than they did.
Muiter blames the problem on GM's original goal: to expand Cadillac's Custom Xpress Delivery system to GM's other divisions.
Custom Xpress predicts what Cadillac vehicle configurations will be popular, builds those vehicles and stores them in regional shipping yards within a day's journey to dealers. Dealers then pick from the available inventory.
VOMS' computer-generated orders were the first step toward a companywide Custom Xpress system, Muiter said. 'Our goal was to provide the most popular configurations based on what was selling,' he said.
'We were eventually going to a CXD model, and then we changed the model,' Muiter said.
Earlier this month, GM officials admitted CXD would create too much inventory at its storage yards.
Instead, GM is attempting to reduce the time between ordering and delivering a vehicle by taking out as much inventory as possible. It also is using the Internet to get orders processed and sent to the assembly plants faster.
Additionally, GM will continue to reduce its overall number of vehicle configurations, the same goal it had with CXD.