It was originally intended as an exclusive online “perk” forGroup dealers who certified for the automaker's Five Star customer satisfaction program.
But three years into Five Star, now allGroup dealers can use the service. It features online purchasing at volume discounts from designated suppliers.
“We decided to make it available at no charge to all our dealers,” says Keith Helfrich, director of the Five Star Market Center. “Somewhere down the line, we'll find something unique for certified Five Star dealers.”
DaimlerChrysler has been refining the site and building a base of suppliers. They offer dealers various goods and services at bargain prices. That includes fuel, package deliveries, uniforms, office supplies, publications, financial services and telecommunication products.
“Five Star Market Center's sheer size of aggregated dealer buying power commands lower prices, which benefits the individual dealer's bottom line immediately,” says Gary E. Dilts, senior vice president of Chrysler Group's e-business unit.
The automaker, by leveraging the buying power of its 4,500 dealer ranks, gets discounts from suppliers interested not only in such a large customer base, but also in e-commerce.
Some dealers, who were first reluctant to buy on line, are getting used to it.
Says Mr. Helfrich, “When we first presented it to dealers, pricing was the only benefit. Some dealers said it was easier just to pick up the phone to place an order. But now they are discovering the efficiencies.
“As we build trust and experience, we can go to higher price items.”
The ultimate is health care coverage. But that's complicated.
“It's not yet ready for prime time,” says Kelly Linn, a senior specialist for the program.
The market center is a win-win-win deal, says John Shaughnessy, a district manager for UPS, one of the participating suppliers.
“We win, Chrysler wins and dealers win,” he says.