General Motors has adopted new vehicle configuration technology at its dealerships and on its consumer Web sites.
Chrome Data Corp. of Portland, Ore., is providing the technology through a $7.5 million contract with GM. It is Chrome's biggest contract to date.
The Chrome Carbook tool allows dealers, Internet portals, financial institutions, and insurance and warranty companies to provide visitors to their Web sites with a tool to configure cars and trucks online, including optional equipment and pricing.
Chrome also is providing GM's 8,400 dealers in the United States and Canada with the configurator. Distributed to GM dealers under the name GM AutoBook, the tool allows the user to configure only orderable vehicles.
By equipping each site with the same configurator, dealers and consumers can reduce the chance for errors, said Chrome CEO Bob Navarre.
'So you can't go in there and build a vehicle that in fact GM doesn't actually produce,' Navarre said.
GM AutoBook allows dealers to compare a GM vehicle with other makes on features and pricing.
'GM wanted some comparative information built into the software that the dealers use,' Navarre said. 'Since Chrome provides configuration and pricing data across all mix and models, I think we were very attractive to GM for that reason.'
The Chrome tool replaces GM PROSPEC, a configurator by Clear With Computers Inc. of Mankato, Minn.
Spencer Hondros, dealer principal at Villa Marin Pontiac-Buick-GMC Inc. in Staten Island, N.Y., said the Chrome tool brings accuracy to dealers.
'You cannot spec a vehicle that does not exist,' said Hondros, who is chairman of GM's information technology dealer council. 'So you know that order is true and accurate before you get done with it. If you try to spec out a vehicle that doesn't exist, it's going to stop you. You won't order something, then wait three or four days, and have the order come back saying you can't order it like this.'
The Chrome tool will cut down on many of the errors made in the ordering process, Hondros said, adding that Chrome is known for its accuracy of prices and vehicle specifications
'That was one of the reasons that we picked them,' Hondros said. Many GM dealers are familiar with Chrome because of its PC Carbook configurator, he said.
GM AutoBook is a redesigned version of the Chrome PC Carbook, Hondros said. GM AutoBook will be integrated with GM's Vehicle Order Management System, or VOMS, he said.
Dealers will like the GM AutoBook because they also can use it in their showroom as a sales tool, Hondros said.
Hondros recommended that all dealers take the training course being offered on how to use the GM AutoBook.
'I don't believe that you're going to have much of an adjustment,' Hondros said. 'We all came to the conclusion that this was the best bang for the buck.'