Never underestimate the value of a pilot project. There's no telling what you'll find. General Motors is using a pilot Web site with seven dealers in the Minneapolis market to test three sales concepts - building to order, basing upfront e-prices on local transactions and pooling dealer inventories.
'We use a process we call launch and learn,' says Bill Lovejoy, GM vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing. 'Don't wait until you get everything in place. Do it and learn.' And what has GM learned?
'Dealers didn't have high-speed Internet access,' Lovejoy says. 'A number of dealers didn't have PCs. They needed PC training.'
It's good GM discovers this now. These are the types of obstacles the automaker needs to overcome before it launches the joint-venture retail site with its dealers nationally later this year.
Even if one in seven in the Minneapolis test didn't have enough high-speed access or enough computers, imagine what GM would find on a national scale.
By the way, the joint-venture - GM is calling it Retail.com internally - is still on, though Lovejoy admits dealer interest has waned.
'The level of interest with dealers went from extremely high to `why are we talking about it?' ' he says. GM will discuss the site with dealers at next month's National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas.
In other dot-com news:
Cambridge Technology Partners Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., has built a new customer Web site for America Honda Motors. The site will allow consumers to configure their own vehicle, price different configurations and complete quick quotes via e-mail, provide leasing and financing figures, and obtain applications for approval of online credit. The site - www.ehonda.com/home.asp - links to Honda's dealer network.
The automotive industry is far behind other industries in e-business progress and must overcome significant cultural, technological and security issues to move forward, says a new global B2B e-commerce study by consulting firm KPMG.
MSN Carpoint.com of Redmond, Wash., says that for the third straight year, the Honda Accord recorded the most requests for its online automotive service. The Chrysler PT Cruiser was No. 2. Rounding out the top five were the Honda Civic, Honda Odyssey and Ford Explorer.
You can reach National Editor Chaz Osburn at (313) 446-1677 or [email protected]