The sky-is-falling caucus of the U.S. dealer community is casting a wary eye toward the national rollout of General Motors' online car-shopping program known as Shop-Click-Drive.
Those nervous dealers need to relax. This isn't a GM plot to replace salespeople with the Internet or substitute computer clicks for the brick and mortar that dealers have spent so lavishly in the past two years to upgrade.
Shop-Click-Drive is just another way for dealerships to offer a convenient shopping experience to customers.
In the more than 18 months that GM has been piloting Shop-Click-Drive at 100 dealerships, a modest 900 customers used the program to buy vehicles from participating stores. By comparison, GM sold 2.1 million vehicles in the United States in the first nine months of 2013.
The service allows a dealership Web site shopper to go through the entire buying journey online from viewing inventory and getting a trade-in value to filling out a credit application and arranging to have a vehicle delivered to a destination of choice. GM will offer it to all of its 4,300 dealerships by year end. It is not available on any of GM's brand Web sites.
Of the 4,000 new vehicles that Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Mich., sold in the past two years, just two customers transacted the entire deal through Shop-Click-Drive without stepping foot in the dealership, said General Manager Lenny George.
He said it hasn't yielded much business, but it hasn't cost him anything, either. He sees Shop-Click-Drive as a no-maintenance option that provides another path to a sale. What mostly happens is a shopper will click into the program from a button on his store's Web site and use it as a research tool to value a trade-in or view inventory.
George said a visitor often will log off or give a phony name when the shopping gets serious -- that is, when he's asked to fill out a credit application or provide contact information before the program gives him a monthly payment on a vehicle. And that's OK. It isn't hurting anybody.
In the universe of things a GM dealer has to worry about, Shop-Click-Drive doesn't even register. George said: "I don't see any downside."