General Motors has unveiled a new Web site featuring discount
coupons on popular midsize vehicles and a sweepstakes in which the winner
gets to play golf with Tiger Woods.
The site, GM Ticket To Ride,
will offer incentives from $200 to $1,000 on some vehicles through July
15. GM partners America Online and NetZero will feature banner ads to
promote the GM site, which will also be advertised in national magazines,
newspapers and on television beginning Sunday.
Like many automakers, GM has struggled to streamline its relatively
inefficient distribution system so popular cars with the hottest
features arrive at the appropriate dealerships. Auto dealers' lots often
overflow with expensive inventory that must be discounted to reduce the
glut. Or they become understocked, forcing customers to wait weeks or months
for their ideal vehicle to be shipped from the assembly line.
GM vice president John Middlebrook said today that the new site will ease some
For example, if dealers in California cannot unload all of their Chevrolet
Cavaliers, GM can offer local Web surfers a hefty discount on the compact
cars to make them more attractive. Likewise, if Chevy Tahoes prove
particularly popular in the Northeast in the winter, GM can reduce or
eliminate the online incentive, thereby boosting the automaker's
profitability per unit.
Currently, incentives must be approved in Detroit and move through a
Byzantine bureaucracy before reaching dealerships--a process that can take
days or weeks.
"The beauty of the Internet is that it gives us flexibility," Middlebrook
said. "We can vary and change the discounts depending on market conditions.
The great thing is that we'll be able to know what's going on every minute,
every day. It's going to be a great learning experience."
The program--which also features gift certificates for people who test-drive
GM vehicles and sweepstakes prizes including trips to the winter Olympics in
Salt Lake City and the summer Olympics in Australia--is GM's first cross-brand
promotion. It aims to provide consumers with one-stop information on five GM
brands: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac.
The Saturn division, which rarely offers cash discounts on its compact and
midsize vehicles, is not participating in the effort.
Middlebrook said he was not worried that cross-branding will dilute the
identity of each brand. In fact, he said, clumping the brands will
help lower the average age of some of GM's buyers. GM has been struggling to
attract younger buyers to its relatively upscale Buick and Cadillac brands
for more than a decade, as the audience withers and baby boomers flock
to imported luxury vehicles by Mercedes, BMW and Lexus.
According to Tom Jump, director of advertising and sales for Buick, the
average Buick buyer who makes the purchase in a physical dealership is 60.
By contrast, the average age of an online Buick buyer is 45--a
clear nod to the prevalence of younger consumers who prefer to shop online
for major purchases.
GM would not forecast traffic on the site, which debuted yesterday. But the
site, when combined with other GM sites such as GMBuyPower.com and divisional sites, is
expected to generate more than 1 million hits per month for all of GM's online initiatives.
That is small compared with giant search engines such as Yahoo,
but it is respectable for an automaker. More than 50 percent of consumers
consult the Internet before buying a vehicle, according to JD Power and Associates.
The program is scheduled to run until July 15 but could be extended
depending on traffic and the number of sales it generates--particularly
sales that would have otherwise gone to GM competitors such as Ford Motor,
DaimlerChrysler, Toyota Motor and Honda Motor.