General Motors Corp. has signed a deal with online vehicle sales firm Autobytel.com that will allow consumers to shop for the vehicle of their choice at regional dealer lots.
The agreement is for 90 days and comes at a time when GM officials are seeking to chart the course of the company's recently formed AutoCentric operation. That deal centers around a joint-venture agreement the company has with its 7,800 dealers to sell vehicles from GM and its competitors.
“Customers have a 3-to-1 preference for independent, multibrand sites vs. single manufacturer sites,” said Mike Devereux, head of new business development at e-GM, the automaker's Web business initiatives unit.
Currently 12 percent to 14 percent of new vehicle sales are generated over the Internet, and that figure is expected to increase, according to industry data.
The 90-day pact between GM and Autobytel begins May 1. Car buyers visiting the Autobytel site from a particular U.S. region who are searching for a select GM brand will be able to survey the vehicles at all nearby dealership lots.
Shoppers will then be able to choose the vehicle they want from dealers' inventory, reserve it with a credit card and pick it up at the dealer of their choice.
GM officials said the company would disclose the vehicle brand and the location of the project test over the next several weeks.