GM Fights Back in Online Car Sales

SAN MATEO (08/18/2000) - Taking a cue from its affiliated dealers, General Motors Corp. is proposing a new joint venture between itself and its U.S. dealers that would provide Web-based information, referrals, and sales on GM and non-GM cars and trucks.

Throughout this month and next, GM will be gathering input from its U.S. dealers on whether or not to undertake this effort, said Michael Gluk, director of business development at e-GM, in Detroit. The proposed, unnamed Web site would help GM and its dealers compete against online start-ups.

"We hope to be finished by the end of September," Gluk said about gathering input. If dealers want it, the venture would launch early next year, and would be separate from GM's

In addition to purchasing and information capabilities, the site could offer GM financing and insurance services, accessories, and automotive products that can be mixed and matched with GM and non-GM vehicles, Gluk said.

Many of the details about pricing, inventory, financing, and trade-ins have yet to be worked out, but this "industry first" would have "General Motors and its dealers sharing equal equity," said Bill Lovejoy, group vice president for vehicle sales, service, and marketing, in a recent letter to GM dealers.

Lovejoy's suggestion came as a result of the e-Dealer Advisory board of GM urging quicker action on Internet initiatives.

A GM dealership in Thousand Oaks, Calif., has had a Web site to buy and build vehicles,, which is a division of Westlake Motors, since April. The site has a range of 290 to 350 user sessions per day, and "retention time is in excess of seven minutes," said Charles Schuss, program director of

Schuss sent a proposal to GM to help them design the new site.

"This is something that should have been taken advantage of four to five years ago," Schuss said, in large part because GM's traditionally aggressive ad campaigns will drive buyers to the new Web site. "The dealers that are proactive in their thinking are liking this."

Rob DeSisto, an analyst at Gartner, in Stamford, Conn., said GM's dealers are tired of having to share profits with online sites.

"The challenge is: Will people think it is a neutral site or will they think it is run by GM?" asked DeSisto, who added that GM is not expecting this site to make a profit.

Ephraim Schwartz contributed to this article.

GM drives for fast lane

GM's dealers have asked the automotive giant to step up to the online competition of multiple Web-based services for selling cars and trucks, which includes:

Sam's Club Auto Program (

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