General Motors intends to launch a digital retail tool aimed at facilitating electric vehicle sales. However, this does not appear to represent a total shift away from the traditional dealer model — even if it technically furthers that cause.
While EVs have grown in popularity, they’re still a niche segment and perhaps not suited to the needs of all customers. That makes it risky to stock your showroom with them, depending on the geography. So we’ve seen multiple manufacturers embrace online sales and the flexibility that offers the manufacturer as a way to get around this. Some companies, like Tesla, even prioritize direct sales models above the alternative — and we’re seeing brands like Volvo beginning to do the same. GM said it would be using Tekion (founded by Tesla and Oracle bigwig Jay Vijayan) to help it sell EVs over the internet.
Rumors of the automaker revising its digital sales stratagem were swirling long before Chevrolet introduced the crossover variant of the Bolt EV in February. The automaker had confirmed a price decrease for the hatchback version, the addition of Super Cruise, and some updated charging solutions that it hoped would make both models easier to live with. But no changes announced in terms of how they could be purchased until Steve Hill, vice president of Chevrolet, spilled the beans to Automotive News.
Of Chevy’s roughly 3,000 U.S. dealers, about 1,700 have signed up to sell the freshened Bolt EV and the new Bolt EUV crossover. Chevy will implement the tool, at no cost to dealers, in June, Hill said. Enrollment begins in April, and pilots are scheduled to start in May. Chevy told dealers about the tool during a Wednesday meeting.
The platform can facilitate a vehicle sale end-to-end, as permitted by state law. Tekion’s platform is “more intuitive than the best third parties on the market,” said Mike Bowsher, chairman of the Chevy dealer council and owner of Carl Black Automotive Group in Kennesaw, Ga.
GMC and Cadillac plan to implement the tool when the Hummer and Lyriq EVs go on sale late this year and in early 2022. The platform can be used with any dealership management system.
Backed by Advent International and a slew of automakers, Tekion has been making moves for a couple of years and integrated itself with over a dozen individual brands. It’s basically trying to become Amazon for automobiles, emphasizing ease of use above all else. But we’ve been critical of software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms like Tekion, as they seem to strip control away from the consumer to prioritize corporate convenience. It also lacks transparency, regardless of what the people trying to sell you on its claim.
“It’s a complete game-changer,” Hill told the outlet. “It’s [GM’s] Shop-Click-Drive on steroids.”
“The dealers were very interested in this real-time interaction with customers while they’re shopping. They don’t want you just surfing the site. They want to be interacting, and that’s exactly what a lot of customers want,” he added.
While some have argued that attempting to focus EV sales online shows a lack of commitment, we’re disinclined to agree. Direct sales have worked for brands like Tesla and are could help brands like GM reach the desired customers. Meanwhile, the company says it’s preparing a new marketing offensive to promote EVs. Hill made this clear as well, referencing last month’s collaboration with Disney (below) before suggesting that the automaker would have an easier time reaching viable Bolt customers using online advertising and sales.
[Images: General Motors]