iPod has the Right Idea

There's a big difference between buying a $300 iPod and a $30,000 new car, acknowledges John F. Smith, General Motors Corp.'s group vice president of sales, service and marketing. Aside from the obvious price difference, there's no trade-in with an iPod, and, right or wrong, a car purchase involves up to five separate transactions, he notes. Yet there's something worth imitating in the way Apple sells

There's a big difference between buying a $300 iPod and a $30,000 new car, acknowledges John F. Smith, General Motors Corp.'s group vice president of sales, service and marketing.

Aside from the obvious price difference, there's no trade-in with an iPod, and, “right or wrong,” a car purchase involves up to five separate transactions, he notes.

Yet there's something worth imitating in the way Apple sells iPods, including a convenience level that respects customers' time, upgrades that keep them interested and a simplicity that makes for “a great buying experience,” Smith says.

“This very sophisticated system of ours has got to emulate iPod's purchase simplicity,” he tells a J.D. Power and Associates' conference in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Assn.'s 2005 convention in New Orleans.

He doesn't advocate a complete overhaul of the automotive retailing franchise system, but “customers are telling us to streamline the car-buying process,” says Smith. “They want it fair, honest and fast.”

Although dealerships have come a long way in customer service in recent years and the Internet has helped expedite matters such as price and inventory, “we still have a long way to go to streamline the process,” he says. “It looks antiquated in the consumers' eyes.”

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