The way that the auto industry uses the traditional independent dealer sales channel and proposed alternatives to that process have prompted considerable debate here at TTAC recently. While industry followers watch Tesla’s attempt to change the way automobiles are retailed with their factory owned outlets, General Motors is doing its part to change the retail sales equation, or at least make the negotiating process a bit more user friendly. If buyers want to, they can now complete the entire car buying process and even take delivery without ever stepping foot in a traditional dealership. However, GM says that the program is there to complement the existing retail dealer sales channel, not replace it. By the end of 2013, GM will expand the Shop-Click-Drive online shopping program nationally.
Shop-Click-Drive has been running as a pilot program in eight states since 2012. It allows car buyers to buy vehicles, from initial inquiry to arranging final delivery, all online. Dealers are part of the process since Shop-Click-Drive is accessed through their own websites, not GM’s, but it’s clear that one of the features of the program is eliminating the perceived hassle of negotiating with a dealer that some people experience when buying new cars.
GM spokesperson Ryndee Carney said that the program will be available by the end of the year at all of GM’s 4,300 U.S. dealers. “Consumers increasingly want to do some degree of car-buying online,” she said. Interestingly, very few of the customers using the pilot program opted for a completely dealer-free experience. While about 900 vehicles were sold through Shop-Click-Drive, only five buyers opted to do the complete process online and take delivery without visiting a dealer. For all the complaints consumers have about car dealers, some people apparently still prefer some human interaction in their commerce. “People still want a relationship,” Carney said.
The program has five steps:
1. Check inventory and pick a car or truck.
2. Get your trade-in value appraised.
3. Apply for credit.
4. Select options and extended warranties.
5. Schedule delivery either at the buyer’s destination of choice or pick it up at the dealer.