LAS VEGAS - General Motors Corp. is pla-nning to revolutionize the marketing and distribution of used vehicles, as well as improve customer rela-tions, with its new e-GM program.
Richard M. Lee, e-GM's general manager of North American Operations, opened his presentation at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing 2000 with a video of young children explaining how computer literate and Internet savvy they are already.
"Just think about when that generation gets to its earning and buying years," Mr. Lee ponders. "This whole phe-nomenon is turning the hands of time. We have examples in our company where 28-year-olds are tutoring our most senior managers on this whole issue."
He says e-GM should be able to help dealers improve customer satisfaction and cut into the time it takes to re-market a used vehicle
"It's all about matching up the exact vehicle with customer's needs and delivering it in the least amount of time and at the lowest acquisition cost," says Mr. Lee. "It's very much evolving to a very dealer-centric model."
The use of Internet technology and databases - via e-GM - will allow dealers to give customers information on cars soon to be coming in from leases and rental fleets, he says. If they choose one of these vehicles, it can be delivered directly to the dealership and delivered to the buyer.
"The advantages here are obvious," says Mr. Lee of the process currently being piloted. "It eliminates some transportation costs. It certainly eliminates a lot of time that's involved in the process today. It will allow dealers to hold less inventory and it allows dealers to find the exact vehicle the consumer is looking for."
He say the corporation considers its dealers as partners in this new enterprise.
"We very much see everything we do going through our dealers," he says. "This is not about cutting the dealers out of the equation."
He used the customer test drive as an example of how GM will coordinate its web activities with its dealers. He calls it integrating the clicks and the bricks.
"We're talking about allowing the consumer to go on line to schedule a test drive with a dealer," Mr. Lee explains. "We want the consumer to choose the location from which that test drive initiates, whether it's the office or the home or the dealership itself. The important thing here is the customer is driving the process."
Mr. Lee and his e-GM colleagues have their work cut out for them.
"Obviously the biggest task that we've got is integrating the Internet with our dealer network," he says. "It's important because we have to be able to provide a seamless on-line experience for somebody who wants to communicate with both us as a manufacturer and our dealers."
He notes that much technical infrast-ructure must be built to make it all work. Mr. Lee adds that many business process and decision-making changes must occur inside GM to integrate the relationships it has with customers and dealers.
In addition to working on GM's Internet interface with its customers and dealers, Mr. Lee says the automaker is trying to electronically connect with its suppliers. The ultimate goal is for the entire supply chain to be alerted instantly to a customer order.
"A lot of this is about rapid order fulfillment," says Mr. Lee. "We're also looking to condense operating stocks at the dealer level."
GE Capital Auto Financial Services is the latest firm to sell its off-lease vehicles on-line to dealers.
GE says it introduced the site in response to dealer feedback on what they need to be more profitable. The site also allows lessor GE to re-market its off-lease vehicles.
The site is for dealers, not consumers. It's a supplement to auctions, not a replacement, stresses GE. The firm reports that during a three-month pilot for GEAutoDirect.com, 125 dealers bought more than 2,400 vehicles.
Features include free registration, free transportation for 300 miles, 45-day floats for qualified dealers, multi-view photos of vehicles for sale and damage reports.
One dealership owner, Gary Linam of Driving 2000 in Madison, AL, has purchased $1.3 million worth of cars on GEAutoDirect.com.
He says, "Dealers may shy away from Internet buying because they can't smell, feel, touch and drive the car."
But he says that if a dealer overcomes such apprehensions, Internet buying is a convenient way to buy inventory without leaving the office.