General Motor’s Saturn division plans to launch a program within 3 months that will allow a customer to execute every aspect of a vehicle purchase that can be done outside of the dealership. The test that 10 dealers nationwide are involved in will allow customers to check dealer inventories, apply for credit, and schedule a test drive. The pilot will also be tested for ways to evaluate the customers trade and also negotiate a price using chat or email. Saturn’s pilot could be the furthest evolution of online auto shopping. Unlike many other automotive brands, Saturn has gotten a jump on the important aspect of online retailing. This can be noticed in the way that all Saturn sites use the same platform. This causes them to have the same look and feel which helps maximize the online experience. Saturn was also the first GM sales division to offer a 24-7 live chat, and has also been experimenting with internet marketing on cell phones.
Saturn’s pilot is aimed to move more functions of a vehicle transaction online and making it a convenient process. When buying a vehicle today the transaction that takes place at the dealership leaves the customer with paperwork and the dealer with the deal jacket. With this new process Saturn is building all of the documentation will be able to be passed back and forth in an online secured space. The overall goal of this program is for customers to be able to go online, research the car, secure financing, and fill out a credit application. The hardest part of this process is the dealer assessment of the trade in vehicle. However, Saturn is still going to experiment with some things during this trial.
No matter how well the pilot will work there are still going to be certain parts of a deal that will still have to be handled at the dealership, such as, testing driving the vehicle.
Susan Walton, Saturn’s CRM manager, has said, “We’re working hard to enable customers to do all of the necessary paperwork online, up to the point of picking up the keys. And that could be a game-changer.”