DETROIT — Stellantis is making a push to get more dealerships onto its digital retail platform that launched early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The automaker formed by the January merger of PSA Group with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has asked its regional business centers to encourage dealers to try the system, which FCA originally called the Online Retailing Experience and later renamed E-Shop.
The latest pitch touts the platform's low cost, broad range of functions and high efficacy, as well as numerous improvements over the past year or so. As extra motivation, the first month is being offered for free, there's no sign-up fee and dealers can quit at any time, said Kevin Frazier, a Stellantis spokesman.
But as new privacy laws make tracking customers more challenging, dealers should keep in mind the risk of lost data if consumers conduct transactions on a manufacturer's website, said Brian Pasch, a marketing consultant who works with many dealers.
In a video posted on LinkedIn, he demonstrated a dealer's site that uses E-Shop.
"If I click on 'payment options,' notice I'm taken off the dealer's website, and I am being redirected through a website called drivefca.com. It's pushing the VIN, it's pushing the dealer code and it's also pushing a session ID. And eventually, when this software loads — and it was quite a long time — you'll see that it is now on E-Shop.Jeep.com, a subdomain off Jeep.com."
This indicates that the manufacturer, not the dealer, will collect and keep the data customers input there, he said.
But that is not the case, according to Stellantis. All the data that's collected is available to dealers through the admin tool, Frazier said. "That information is for the dealers," he said.
Since April 2020, the platform has benefited from many improvements, according to a slide deck sent to a Michigan dealer. Improved imagery, integration with Dealertrack for credit applications and e-contracting, F&I customization, employee pricing and scheduling of test drives and deliveries were among the highlights on one slide. Another listed enhancements coming this quarter, including trade-ins "powered by KBB," e-contracting webinars and more-accurate pricing that incorporates local taxes and fees.
The presentation argues that E-Shop offers more essential services than CarNow, Dealer Inspire, Dealer.com, WebBuy, Darwin Automotive or Gubagoo at a fraction of the cost — $500 a month. It also says that from March 1 to 24 it produced more leads than those providers and that those leads led to sales at a higher rate than most.
Frazier declined to say how many dealers are on the system, but he said it is the most widely used tool among Stellantis dealers.
Michael Martinez and Lindsay VanHulle contributed to this report.