DETROIT -- General Motors is rolling out the first marketing effort for its 2-year-old online shopping tool, Shop-Click-Drive, citing its success in attracting customers who want to handle as much of the car-buying process as possible outside the dealership.
Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac began running advertisements for Shop-Click-Drive this month, tied to the Black Friday sales promotion GM launched last week. The company is emphasizing not only online-shopping convenience but also pricing transparency: The Shop-Click-Drive interface shows shoppers current pricing, incentives and fees and even estimates trade-in values.
One newspaper ad read: "The price you see is the price you'll pay." The campaign runs through year end.
About half of GM's roughly 4,300 U.S. dealerships are using Shop-Click-Drive, which runs on individual dealerships' websites. It allows users to browse inventory, line up financing and even pick out accessories. Buyers still must visit dealerships to sign the paperwork and take delivery.
Rolled out nationally in November 2013, Shop-Click-Drive has resulted in about 29,000 new-vehicle sales and generated another 200,000 new- and used-vehicle sales leads, GM says.
GM North America President Alan Batey said GM created the system because the company's research showed that a significant percentage of would-be customers are turned off by the dealership experience.
"As we were looking at millennials, we saw they were very comfortable online," Batey said during an investor conference last month. "They were not comfortable coming to a dealership."
Nearly one-third of leads that come through Shop-Click-Drive result in a sale, which makes it one of dealers' best lead generators, Batey said. He said 43 percent of buyers are new to GM.
"Here is a great example of understanding the customer and then providing them a tool that makes their life easier and, importantly, sells cars," Batey said. GM plans to begin offering the service in markets outside the U.S.
The program initially got a cool reception from many dealers, who saw it as the factory encroaching on the retail experience.
David Ferraez, CEO of Green Brook Buick-GMC in Green Brook, N.J., and owner of a nearby Chevy store, says Shop-Click-Drive generates five to 10 leads a month on average.
"I think Shop-Click-Drive sounds great to somebody who's not in the car business and doesn't understand how complex the process can be," Ferraez said.
"We want every lead we can get, so we're happy that GM is trying this," he said. "But I don't see it becoming a big selling tool for us."