GM To Offer Cars Online at Discount

German automaker Adam Opel, a subsidiary of General Motors (NYSE: GM),announced Wednesday that it is launching a pilot program tosell cars over the Internet at a discount.

The pilot project is slated to run from March 10th through July31th and will offer six models at discounts of up to 11 percentoff listed prices. The selected cars will range in price fromUS$8,100 to $22,000.

According to Adam Opel board member Andrey Barcak, the company is one of the first automakers in Germany to offerits customers “the possibility to choose and order differentmodels with a click of the mouse.”

Barcak said in published reports that the company expects tosell 250 to 300 cars during the pilot program.

Real Deal

The online ordering purchase will allow consumers to choose thecar, value their trade-in, arrange for financing and insurance, and schedule a test drive.

Consumers who want to purchase cars online will be required topay a $48 fee to reserve a car. After thepurchase is completed, the reservation fee is reimbursed.

Once online car shoppers have reserved their car online, theywill be contacted by an Adam Opel salesperson to arrange a testdrive and a dealer visit.

Expanding Program

GM said that the launch of online ordering in Germany bringsits brick-and-click strategy to Europe’s two largestmarkets. Online ordering was originally introduced to thecompany’s English subsidiary Vauxhall in 1999.

Since the original launch of Vauxhall’s online purchasingprogram, the company has expanded it to include all of models.

GM’s Online Push

GM has been aggressively expanding its presence in the onlineautomotive market. Last month it inkeda deal with Autobytel.com to test an online shopping systemthat will show consumers which cars are available for purchasein their area.

GM said the trial run, which is slated to begin May 1st and runfor 90 days, will provide the company and its dealers with ablueprint for creating an online locate-to-order system. Thecars shown to consumers will bear dealer-set Web prices.

Also in February, the giant automaker said it would forma partnership with its network of dealers to build a Webshopping site called AutoCentric that will offer GM cars aswell as other brands.

The company has also announced a marketing alliance with eBayMotors and a sweeping deal with America Online that includeddiscount Web access for GM workers.

Start Your Engines

According to a study from Jupiter Research, direct and Web-influenced new vehicle sales will grow to $128 billion annuallyby 2004.

In addition, Forrester Research recently said that within threeyears, the percentage of new car buys made online will climb to6 percent, up from the current market share of less than 1percent.

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