Timing for the rollout of GM BuyPower (www.gmbuypower.com) hasn't been set, said a GM spokeswoman at North American Operations. BuyPower currently is testing in four northwestern states.
The program was introduced last October with a splashy multimedia campaign from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles. GM has spent an estimated $15 million in TV, radio, newspapers and banner ads since the test started, but no national agency has yet been named.
Originally due to expire April 15, GM extended the test to Oct. 15. Visitors to the site are able to view dealer inventory, and can reach dealers in their area via e-mail or listed phone numbers.
"We made such a bold and aggressive move, we needed another six months to capture more information," said Ann Pattyn, who as director of GM's Consumer Marketing Initiative in Thousand Oaks, Calif., oversees BuyPower.
She conceded that measuring the effectiveness of the test is difficult because only visitors to the site who provide personal data are tracked. Not all site visitors provide such data, but prospects who did bought more than 600 GM vehicles in the nine months of the test.
GM also learned 35% of its buyers who used the Net to gather information visited the BuyPower site. There have been 5,600 online customer requests for a dealer in their area and nearly 40,000 online messages to dealers tracked via the test.
More than 60% of GM dealers in the test region signed up for the free program. They must have a dedicated online rep to talk to customers and to reply to prospects' online requests within 24 hours.
Not all the 433 participating dealers, however, are excited by BuyPower. Jim Weston, a GM dealer in Portland, Ore., described the program as "a miserable failure." He said he hasn't had a single prospect from the Web site, although he has had calls via the 800-number included in the ads.
GM dealer Gary Storrer in Twin Falls, Idaho, doesn't like BuyPower either, saying, "I think they're wasting a lot of advertising dollars that could be moved into product."