General Motors says its Shop, Click and Drive initiative is designed to let consumers get online information on vehicles, pricing, incentives, finance and insurance products and trade-in value. Shoppers can pick a vehicle, apply for financing, then get their car.
Despite the fact GM is building what I consider to be some of the best products in the industry, it has lost the ball in the sun with this retailing project.
Like all manufacturers, it needs to get out of retail. They’re all bad at it. Interfering with dealers has repeatedly led to disastrous results.
First, requiring all participating GM dealers to have the same cookie-cutter website vendor is totally asinine.
Dealer websites cannot be competitive nor convert consumers effectively if all of them are built, maintained and, supposedly, optimized by the same company.
Not only does this encourage dealers to compete among themselves. It drives up the cost of search-engine marketing and pay-per-click search advertising.
These issues and others first came to my attention online in several discussion groups I participate in with dealership employees and principals. The negatives coming from dealerships about Shop-Click-Drive are overwhelming in conversation after conversation and post after post.
If I spoke with one GM dealer out of 100 that was positive about the program, that would be giving them an edge. Dealers are either indifferent about it or they hate it. Very few sing its praises. Usually GM has at least a few dealers who will endorse anything it does.
But you do hear glowing praise of Shop-Click-Drive from one group: GM management. It acts like this is the best thing since Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the bread-slicing machine in 1928.
A GM spokesperson says: “Customers love the fact that they don’t have to spend four or five hours in the dealership.”
My good friend Cliff Banks of “The Banks Report” says S-C-D essentially is another lead generator that’s a little more dressed up.
GM reports that about 1,800 of its 4,300 dealerships participate. They sold 15,000 vehicles that way in the first year of the program that began in late 2013.
“Do the math,” Banks says. “Fifteen thousand sales divided by 1,800 dealerships equals 8.3 sales per dealership.”
GM claims to have sold about 18,000 units to date through this program. It sold 5 million vehicles overall during that same period.
What doesn’t change is that a minority of GM dealers participate, and those that do couldn’t care less about it or just don’t like it. Sales from it are minimal, but screw-ups and miffed customers are plentiful.
A friend who is a former dealership Internet director submitted an S-C-D lead through a Chevy dealership. He used his real name and actual personal information, including social-security number and phone number.
That was about two weeks ago. No one from the dealership has contacted him. He has received a series of emails that seem like auto-replies. But nothing from a real person.
It is more about the manufacturer agenda to automate the sale and eliminate the traditional process. But the vast majority of consumers do not want to buy a car online, even if the system allowing them to do so was working correctly. This one ain’t.
GM probably will fly this plane into the ground, claiming success and victory right up until impact. I suggest they deploy the ejector seat before that happens. And after the crash, please don’t blame the dealers for it.
Keep those emails and calls coming. See you on Twitter and YouTube.
Jim Ziegler president of Ziegler Supersystems based in metro Atlanta, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reached email@example.com. WardsAuto readers also may comment on this article by logging in or registering below.