GM to expand online Shop-Click-Drive program nationwide

"We want to make it easier and simpler for dealers to connect with customers who are looking to combine the convenience of online shopping with the personal service of a neighborhood dealership," Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in a statement.

McNeil said GM worked with dealers to develop the tool, which it began piloting early this year. GM recently expanded the program to about 100 dealerships in eight states after favorable feedback from customers and dealers, GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said.

About 1,000 vehicles have been sold through the Shop-Click-Drive service since the pilot began, she said. GM is notifying dealerships today that the tool is being made available nationally.

Dealers will work with GM to launch the program on their individual Web sites. GM said it would take most dealers at least 48 hours to get the program operational on their sites.

Dealers in the past have been wary about factory programs that dabble in the sales process. But Shop-Click-Drive improves the link between dealerships and online customers with little involvement from GM, says dealer Todd Ingersoll, who served on a dealer committee that helped develop the program.

"It's a resource for the customer to put together most of the information they need for their purchase," said Ingersoll, president of Ingersoll Automotive in Danbury, Conn, which sells Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC. "It's been very effective in the stores that have been using it."

During the pilot, GM encouraged dealers to offer a concierge service for online buyers to arrange test drives or even home delivery of vehicles. Fewer than 10 of the buyers never personally visited the store, Carney said.

"In theory, the entire transaction can be done without stepping foot inside the dealership," Carney said. "But it cannot be done without the dealer."

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