General Motors announced a deal Tuesday to upgrade its consumer Web site, GMBuyPower.com, with new technology that lets car buyers access the site faster and on a variety of platforms, from cell phones to handhelds.
GM's 2-year-old exclusive car buying site will replace its existing infrastructure with software based on Sun Microsystems's Java 2 Enterprise Edition platform (J2EE), developed by privately held RedCelsius.
In addition to making the site available on platforms beyond the PC, the new software includes a "bandwidth calculator" that will speed up access to the site based on a user's Internet connection. RedCelsius' e-commerce software, eBusinessFirePower Architecture, will also allow GM to expand the Web site and make quick changes to its marketing and pricing structure.
"It is important to understand that GM has a pretty sophisticated Web site," said Denis Pombriant, research director at research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. "When they needed to make changes on the site, GM discovered it was either too difficult or horrendously expensive."
GM spent an estimated US$8 million to build the Web site prior to its launch in March 1999. Pombriant said it has spent significantly more than that to keep it running. RedCelsius' e-commerce architecture is expected to cut down the cost of making changes on the site and make it more scalable.
GMBuyPower.com has become a valuable sales and marketing tool for GM. In addition to making available content and information about GM cars and dealers, the site allows consumers to configure GM cars virtually, and communicate with more than 6,300 dealer, or about 83 percent of GM's retail dealers, on the Internet.
The car giant says it generates about 1,000 leads per day, forwarding consumers to its local dealers around the world. New additions to the site will also turn GMBuyPower.com into a central destination for car owners to visit for personal information on warranties and special offers.
The new software from RedCelsius can measure a user's Internet speed and pair down graphics and Web content delivered to users with dial-up Internet connections, said Steve Hanna, the director of product development for GM's Internet division, e-GM. Hanna spoke on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
GM is one of the first car makers to embrace the Internet as a venue to market and sell its vehicles. On March 21, the company announced the pilot test of another car buying site it is developing through a partnership with struggling online car seller Autobytel.com. GM is also mulling the launch of an Internet auto dealer called AutoCentric JV LLC, a joint venture it developed last year with its dealers.
GM did not announce the value of its deal with RedCelsius but agreed to become a potential equity investor in Red Celsius, gaining rights to buy as much as 10 percent of Red Celsius' outstanding warrants, said Jim Watson, chief executive officer of RedCelsius, on the conference call. RedCelsius also gains a new technology partner in services giant Electronic Data Systems, which will embrace the company's e-commerce platform through its partnership with GM.
GMBuyPower.com will roll out the new service in the US in mid July. The expanded service is expected to reach Europe by September and roll out in each of the 40 countries where GM sells its cars in 2002.
GMBuyPower.com can be reached at +1-313-556-5000. RedCelsius can be reached at its corporate headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga. at 678-942-1300.