DETROIT — General Motors plans to launch a digital retail tool to help facilitate EV sales as the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV hit showrooms this summer.
The proprietary tool is powered by Tekion, a fast-growing automotive retail platform provider led by a former Tesla executive.
"The people that are going to buy EVs from Chevrolet, this is their everyday driver. We have to make EV easy," Steve Hill, vice president of Chevrolet, told Automotive News.
Of Chevy's roughly 3,000 U.S. dealers, about 1,700 have signed up to sell the freshened Bolt EV and the new Bolt EUV crossover. Chevy will implement the tool, at no cost to dealers, in June, Hill said. Enrollment begins in April, and pilots are scheduled to start in May. Chevy told dealers about the tool during a Wednesday meeting.
The platform can facilitate a vehicle sale end-to-end, as permitted by state law. Tekion's platform is "more intuitive than the best third parties on the market," said Mike Bowsher, chairman of the Chevy dealer council and owner of Carl Black Automotive Group in Kennesaw, Ga.
GMC and Cadillac plan to implement the tool when the Hummer and Lyriq EVs go on sale late this year and in early 2022. The platform can be used with any dealership management system.
GM was an early investor in Tekion, known for its DMS. Today, Tekion is valued at more than $1 billion, with other investors such as Alliance Ventures, run by Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi; BMW i Ventures; and dealership groups. Tekion began enrolling franchised dealerships in late 2019. It has integrated with at least 17 automaker brands.
The company claims to be the first cloud-based DMS platform. CEO Jay Vijayan, who is a former Tesla chief information officer, told Automotive News in October that Tekion was designed to create a seamless transaction similar to what Amazon and Apple Inc. provide.
Because GM's Tekion platform is only for EVs, it won't replace Shop-Click-Drive, which has been the automaker's in-house online shopping tool since 2013.
"It's a complete game-changer," said Hill. "It's Shop-Click-Drive on steroids."
GM has enhanced Shop-Click-Drive over the past year and considers it a valuable tool, said Hill. But the simplicity of Tekion's platform is key to driving EV sales, he said.
"The dealers were very interested in this real-time interaction with customers while they're shopping. They don't want you just surfing the site. They want to be interacting, and that's exactly what a lot of customers want," Hill said.
The platform also allows customers to handle much of the transaction remotely.
"A lot of the feedback that we get from customers [is] it just takes too long to buy a car. And this really helps shorten that time frame," Hill said.
Sales of the Bolt rose 26 percent in 2020, and in the fourth quarter it was the top-selling EV built by a traditional automaker, surpassing the Nissan Leaf by more than 2,000 vehicles. Chevy said it has sold more than 100,000 Bolt EVs globally since the car's 2017 launch and that three-quarters of U.S. buyers have been new to GM.
Chevy plans to train EV specialists at dealerships and says it will pay for and install chargers at customers' homes via a partnership with Qmerit.
The brand aims to increase EV demand through more national advertising and marketing collaborations, such as its Bolt ad with Disney.
"A nice part about EV is that it is a subset of the market," Hill said. "We can target these customers pretty efficiently and handle a lot of the heavy lifting for the dealers."