GM on EBay

Note

This hub is about an experiment by General Motors and eBay that officially ended on September 30, 2010.

A Major Automaker Resorts to EBay

First and foremost this is harder to find on eBay than it should be.

If you type in http://www.ebay.com and look for GM cars you might find T-Shirts or books on the cars. No cars though.

If you type (into your URL) http://motors.ebay.com (this is what savvy buyer/seller[s] know to do) you won't find them there either. Nothing like an easy to find connection to the commercials.

I think that's really short-sighted. You are going to spend millions of dollars on advertising for a new method of sales and neglect to tell your audience exactly how to get there. Brilliant! Especially since the commercials (running every ten minutes apparently) don't actually tell you where to look. Oh, they say "GM on EBay", but you can't type that into your browser now can you.

No, if you want to find those deals you need to type http://gm.ebay.com. <author smacks forehead> Why of course you know that don't you!!! Would you prefer a Pontiac? Then type http://pontiac.ebay.com as a short cut to the process. Chevrolet? http://chevrolet.ebay.com. Buick? You know what to do. http://buick.ebay.com. GMC? Of course it's going to be http://gmc.ebay.com. But since the http://gm.ebay.com takes you to all these places, why not mention that in the commercial?

Is this really a good idea? A bad idea? Will it work? What about the sales force; aren't they going to pitch a fit because they are being cut out of the process? What about the consumer; can they expect the same level of service when buying on-line?

So many questions; so few answers. But this is, after all, an experiment of sorts. I will relate here, beside the direct link to the site, the things I see (and don't see) with this new marketing method for General Motors (GM).

September 2, 2009:
See C.A.R.S. section below for an update on this sales program.

Is this a Good Idea or a Bad Idea? Will it Work?

Only GM (Disadvantages section) will know for sure. Can we trust them to tell us the truth or spin the results of this experiment for their own benefit? I have that answer (and I'll bet you do too), but the sad bit here is there are no metrics for us "common folk" to use to determine if this marketing scheme will help or hurt. Maybe cars.com or edmunds.com will be able to tell us.

As an advertizing gimmick though, it surely will work. Will it sell cars? Only time will tell.

15 Second Spots

Shortly after my ranting about the minute long spots that fail to mention the web-site I notice (late afternoon) that GM is now running 15 second spots that do nothing but make mention of the gm.ebay.com web-site. Ah well. A little from the minute long spot, a bit more from the 15 second spot and they might actually have a decent campaign.

What about the Sales Force?

Not sure about this one. And since I'm not in the market for a new car (and likely won't be for a while) I can't answer this question directly. But the cars are at specific dealerships, not some central location. Certainly a salesperson will be involved in the purchasing process at some point.Options are almost always on the menu when dealing with sales staff; that and financing options. So likely the sales staff will still have something to do with the process...just at a reduced rate of commission.

I will be asking around. I know some people who do this for a living. Hopefully they'll have some answers and be able to share them. So revisit this hub from time to time to find out what I learned.

What about the Consumer?

This is another unknown, but I can tell you from looking at the seller pages, that the consumer is presented with a wealth of information about the car. Also, I have (yet) to find a single new car being offered that wasn't offered with an at least ten percent discount after a factory cash back rebate. More often than not the discount is over ten percent....even on high MPG cars.

Certainly the manufacturer has made some MSRP adjustments; they'd be foolish not to, but it certainly looks good in print.

Here's the question though. If someone is selling you something who is doing whom the favor? You and I both know...enough said.

Advantages

As far as I can see all of the models that General Motors (except the the Saturn brand and the Volt) are offered via gm.ebay.com. As can be seen from the image at right, a make can be selected and then the model, and zip code. Once you make a selection and the screen refreshes you have the option of fine-tuning the options and the presented autos are shown by model, number of cylinders, major options, EPA mileage estimates and dealer name/location.

The zip code ensures that the cars you are looking at are close to the zip code. Not bad.

Right there on the summary page you can also see the MSRP, dealer incentive, and final (buy it now) price.

The fine tuning options allow you to select a new model, trim, exterior (color), transmission (manual/auto), and maximum price. Submit will give you a new list of vehicles.

Vehicle Details: On these pages you can see quite a few pictures of the model (no mention if this is the actual car you are purchasing), including the interior and amenities. You also have the option of "buying it now" at the advertised price or make an offer.

There are also tabs for description, vehicle history, shipping, payment, and a "before you buy" tab. All of these are the standard fare for any vehicle for sale on eBay....new or used.

Featured Options and Warranty: No surprises here. Again this is standard fare for any vehicle for sale on eBay. In fact it's the stock in trade of such sales, which in a way, is not a good thing. Nothing really indicates that this is a brand new --- never driven vehicle for sale.

Financing Details: Again, nothing new or different here. As you'd expect you are told you can finance, lease, or pay cash for the vehicle. Damn! Didn't know that!!!

Payment Instructions: Are eBay centric. e.g. these are instructions you'd only find on an online auction site. If you've bought from eBay before there are no surprises here.

Bids: A bid for the full price of the vehicle can be made here or "make an offer." I like the idea that I can offer less than the listed price.

About Inert Automaker Name Here!: This will give you a (very) brief history of this particular brand. Not something you typically see on a used car sale, but nothing out of the ordinary either.

Disadvantages

Bid History: There isn't one. You have no idea if anyone else is interested in the vehicle, how many people that might be (or none at all), or if the vehicle has any interest whatever. Not a good thing.

Actual Photos: It is highly unlikely that the vehicle you are interested in is the actual vehicle in the photographs. I'd say the chances that the photos are of "your" vehicle are slim to none. You don't see a parking lot, people, or all the other background "stuff" typical to a dealership. No, in fact, every vehicle is photographed on a seamless white background; typical of factory sales brochure photos.

Trade In Estimator: I have to put this in the "disadvantages" area for one reason and one reason only. The difference between the low end and high end of the estimate is so large you can herd five elephants abreast through the gap. Granted, the figures given are (loosely) in line with Kelly Blue-Book values, but the gap between low and high is huge.

In a way you can't blame the dealership though. What may be "good" condition to the person making the trade-in may be "bad" condition to the dealership. Still, if the latitude is this wide why bother? Simply alert the buyer that trade-in value can only be determined by at the dealership. This gives the sales staff a bit more to do. Simple no?

CARS (Cash for Clunkers): This is in there, but as a separate link just below the trade-in calculator. Why not "port" the trade-in information over the the CARS area and give you both figures. Makes too much sense right? Of course you, the consumer, will want to submit duplicate information. You've got that time don't you?

Data Modeling: There are fields at the bottom of the detail page that allow you, the buyer, to enter demographic and "possible buy date" information. Naturally, this is not for your benefit. This gives the dealership selling the car plenty of information to contact you and present you with other "purchasing" opportunities. Not a terrible thing, but not something I'll be filling out. They'll see me if I'm considering buying a car and not before.

Additionally it gives G.M. a means of tracking interest by area of the country, county, or even neighborhood. Not particularly negative for you the consumer, but certainly a good tool for business.

Time Limit: I've yet to see a single car listed that was not limited to five (5) days. What's the rush?

AdAge

I often visit http://www.adage.com (Advertising Age) to track trends in marketing and get some insight into what professional marketers and advertising firms think of things. They are oddly silent on this effort by GM, but have covered viral videos and other "under the RADAR" efforts by General Motors in the past.

I will look for reporting on the eBay efforts from this publication and report on them here.

8/19/2009: There are still no articles specifically about the GM/eBay partnership, it's effects on purchasing, or any hint of it's effectiveness.

August 31, 2009
AdSense still has nothing to say about this. When going to the site and searching for "GM on eBay" the only result is a lot of other efforts by GM and an article on the initial agreement back in 2000. <Harumph!>

Update

Since I created this hub GM has enhanced and improved the adverts. At first there were short spots giving only the web address(s) and little else or long ads that made no mention of the URL (Universal Resource Locator) at all.

Now the ads are much more cohesive; highlighting the vehicles offered while making sure that the web-address is prominently featured. These new ads stress "Make an Offer" which I think is well thought out and gives the impression that GM is open to negotiating with the buyer...not a bad thing.

September 30, 2009
GM and eBay announced that they will suspend the program on October 1, 2009. Neither GM nor eBay will comment on how many cars were sold via the program, how many customers were funneled to dealerships, or how the entire process worked out.

There is still no word on the success or failure of this program via ad agencies.

GM did say that the "Buy it Now" option, was not as popular as hoped. What they are not saying is whether or not "Make an Offer" got more use.

Both companies are claiming success and GM is stating that the program was a learning experience.  Lessons learned from this program will be applied to future GM auto sales sites.

Kudos and Pans

Kudos: To General Motors (GM) for taking a chance, moving toward the future, and trying something new. Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and even Toyota haven't gone this far.

Pan: To GM for taking the competitive advantage away from the customer. Don't they know it's always more exciting to bid against someone else when buying? How can you do that if you don't know if you are?

Cash Allowance Rebate System

C.A.R.S. (Cash Allowance Rebate System) otherwise known as "Cash For Clunkers" will end Monday, August 24th at 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

August 31, 2009

I genuinely fear a rebound effect now that C.A.R.S. is over. Auto sales will likely return to pre-CARS levels. Will layoffs follow? It wouldn't surprise me.

September 2, 2009

According to an Associated Press news article General Motors did not really benefit from the C.A.R.S. rebate with sales actually falling 20% during the month of August. GM will also be extending the eBay program through the end of this month. See Update above.

September 29, 2009

The Federal Government reports that 659,345 vouchers were paid for a total dollar amount of $2,776,191,500. Or two point seventy-seven (2.77) billion dollars

Vouchers approved, but not paid are 9,943 at a cash value of $41,481,500. This is a total of 669,288 vouchers with a cash value of $2,817,673,000. Or two point eight two (2.817) billion dollars. This is just shy of the three (3) billion dollars allocated by Congress.

This is an average payout of $4,209.956 per vehicle sold during the program.

September 30, 2009

The program was officially suspended.

October 7, 2009

According to the Federal Government the C.A.R.S. program came in under the three billion dollar budget with a final total of $2,880,000,000 dollars in rebates. Seven hundred thousand (700,000) cars were sold during the program.

The top four models, were the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Ford Focus. All four of these models are manufactured here in the United States. The Japanese cars made up 41% of all sales and domestic vehicles made up 39% of all sales.

Eighty-four (84%) percent of vehicles turned in were trucks. New vehicles purchased were primarily passenger cars at 59% of sales.

Note

The author owns no direct stock (or indirect as far as he knows) in either EBay or General Motors. The author has not been compensated in any way to write this article. The author did not receive cash, freebies, or any monetary consideration for this article.

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Comments 1 comment

Skif profile image

Skif 7 years ago

First off, I would like to say, "Nice hub!" I have not sold cars since last year, but I am assuming (you know what happens when you assume) that the dealerships are actually responsible for listing the cars. If that is the case, commissions would not be affected. Also, and I could be wrong, the "make an offer" button seems like a marketing ploy to get your contact info. A salesman can then call you and inform you that he/she MIGHT be able to get you that price, "so why don't you come on in?" The reason the trade-in value is so non-committal is because a dealer truly needs to see a vehicle before placing a value on it. "Good condition" can be two totally different things to a buyer (the dealership) and a seller (the customer). It's also another way to get the customer INTO the dealership. I believe this is just a different way to get leads, but if it works, good for GM! Marketing has never been their strong point, and I think that has a lot to do with their current situation. Sorry for the long comment. Once I get rolling, it's hard to stop. One last thing... Salesmen are not bad people. 99% of us are polite, genuine, people who are just trying to make a living. It's that 1% that give us all a bad name.

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