As General Motors Corp. begins the national rollout of its much-discussed “OneSource” dealership Internet program, dealers are being confronted with an overwhelming amount of information about the many components that make up this process. North Central region dealers have already completed the enrollment process; other regions will be following over the next several months.

The new “OneSource” program is a collection of several different GM-developed Internet marketing initiatives. In most cases the new program only re-badges things that dealers have been using for quite some time, but several of the components are new. GM has made several presentations to the dealer body describing the changes and options, but the sheer volume of new programs announced as part of the entire initiative has left many dealers confused as they navigated through the DealerWorld online enrollment process.

The various components of the “OneSource” initiative are:

OneSource

First and foremost, OneSource refers to the process GM will be using to electronically deliver leads to their dealers. Referred to as the OneSource “pipeline” in information provided to dealers, it is essentially a central electronic location where a variety of GM-provided prospects will be sent before they are passed on to the dealership. This includes prospects generated by the GM divisional websites, GM Certified Internet website (formerly BuyPower), GM Handraiser leads, third- party provided Internet leads, and other sources. In essence, if a prospect can be provided electronically, it’s going to come via the OneSource portal.

In order to continue receiving these leads, dealers will need to set-up their OneSource account through GM Dealerworld. The bad news is that your open account will be billed for a $499 one-time set-up charge when you do this, plus an ongoing charge of $149 per month. The good news is that you will no longer be charged for GM Buypower, which was billed on a sliding scale, based on the number of leads a dealership received – typically $100 to $$300 a month.

Although the OneSource process represents a marked improvement in the efficiency of GM’s lead delivery process, dealers probably will not notice much difference if they already are using a contact management tool that is “Certified” for use with GM OneSource. Dealers who aren’t using any kind of computer-based lead-management tool, or who are using one that is not “certified” by GM OneSource, will have to choose a tool that is compatible with OneSource and train their salespeople how to use it before they will be able to work these leads.

One other thing dealers need to know is that all the GM-provided leads (ultimately including upcoming lease terminations) will be going to the contact-management tool selected. If they had different salespeople working Internet leads and Handraiser leads, they will need to make sure all these salespeople have access to the contact management tool and training in its use.

GM Dealer Websites

This is a newly modified version of the former GM “PowerShift” websites offering provided by The Cobalt Group. Cobalt provides factory template websites for several manufacturers, including the DaimlerChrysler Group’s “5 Star” websites up until last year. These sites provide dealers with a functional Internet presence that incorporates features such as vehicle window sticker display, and many other things. There are a variety of packages available with different features and options, ranging from $359 to $1009 monthly, plus a one-time installation and training charge.

Dealers may want to consider their options before committing to a factory-provided “template” website. There are some weaknesses inherent in these solutions, most notably the minimal ability to customize the look and feel of your site to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and the limited amount of unique and individual dealership promotion that is available. Several companies offer dealership websites, and these custom sites cost less than the terms of the contract for a generic factory template website.

Also, dealers need to remember that even template websites require ongoing maintenance to insure their content is accurate and timely.

A significant shift in GM policy is it will only provide website links from its divisional websites and in its OnStar communications to dealerships that use the GM dealer websites. Dealers who elect to maintain their own unique identity with a custom website will not be able to have their URL appear as a “clickable” link in the GM corporate websites, or in any of the OnStar customer diagnostic e-mails. This policy may be reviewed in the future as more dealers become aware of and protest these restrictions.

GM Dealer Websites – Options

This is the area where dealers need to be the most wary. The two options discussed in the GM presentations are the “PowerSearch” feature, and the “ProCare" feature. These are presented in the Dealerworld enrollment process without listed prices, so dealers need to make sure that they are fully aware of what these options deliver, and how much they cost.

“PowerSearch” is an Internet optimization process that will theoretically make your website easier to find through Internet search engines such as Yahoo or Google. Optimization is a precise process and although it can bring more visitors to your site it is most effective when it is applied to websites that are seeking to attract visitors from across the globe. The kind of localized traffic that dealerships are looking for requires a unique approach based on locally influenced search phrases.

The cost of the PowerSearch optimization program is $1,099 per month, plus a $1,600 set up charge. There are many companies that provide this type of service, and dealers may want to shop around a little before they make a final decision. In addition to price considerations, ask the providers how they plan on reaching Web searchers who are local to your market area.

With ProCare Cobalt will make most of the ongoing changes to the dealer websites. As most dealerships don’t do a very good job of keeping their websites current this might sound like an attractive option. The charge is $599 a month plus a one-time set-up charge of $600. Dealers need to understand that they still need to have someone responsible for requesting that needed changes be made.

GM Certified Internet Manager Training

The Certified Internet Manager program is the same thing as the previously known GM BuyPower certification program. If your Internet salesperson has already been certified with the GM BuyPower program, they do not have to complete any other training. The Certified Internet Manager training is the same as they completed before. Dealerships that select the GM-provided contact tool will need to have someone trained in its use.

GM 3rd Party Lead Program

This seems to be the area of most confusion. Essentially, this program is the same as the current GM third-party lead program that most dealers already participate in. These leads come from a variety of sources outside of GM, and the quality of the leads has been somewhat inconsistent. Dealerships currently receiving leads from third-party providers need to discuss their current situation with those lead providers, but in very few instances will the GM third party program replace those leads effectively.

The actual arrangements between GM and the third-party providers that provide leads under this program varies, and the process that determines how these leads will be distributed amongst dealer market areas is complicated. The larger lead providers have been assuring their client dealerships that the leads they are purchasing directly from them will not be shared or duplicated through the GM program.

The cost for the GM third-party lead program is based on a sliding scale for the number of leads received, and appears to be the same as the current program.

OneSource Contact Tool

As part of the new OneSource lead-delivery portal, dealerships are required to use some kind of electronic Internet prospect management tool. GM is making one available that is provided by Canadian firm Strategic Connections, as part of the OneSource enrollment process for a small monthly charge. Dealers are not required to use this tool, but whatever tool they do use must be “certified” for use with GM OneSource. The certification process that third-party companies must complete is relatively complex from a programming standpoint, but most reputable providers should not have a problem obtaining this status.

The tool available through GM will accomplish the basic necessities of Internet prospect management, but dealers who wish to consider their options should carefully evaluate salesperson ease of use, the level of automated-management reporting, and the support (both technical and on-going training) that is provided by the company providing the tool.

Summary

The OneSource initiative represents a significant and necessary step for GM. In addition to streamlining their lead delivery process it will enable them to more effectively measure the effectiveness of their Internet marketing budget, which now represents a substantial portion of their advertising expenditure.

It has some drawbacks that are common to factory programs of this magnitude, but its long-term benefits outweigh the negatives.

OneSource will also force dealers to confront the current state of their Internet sales efforts. Dealers who haven’t yet had opportunity to structure their dealerships appropriately in response to the growing Internet prospect market will have to come to the knowledge table. As dealers have been told for quite some time now, the Internet is real and it’s here to stay. OneSource is a step forward in the evolution that will ultimately help dealers capitalize on this opportunity.