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Ebay-GM partnership generates interest but limited sales

Thu, 20 Aug 2009

General Motors Co.'s effort to sell new cars on eBay in California is generating interest but recording few sales on the Internet auction site.

In the first nine days of the program, GM dealers listed 16,228 vehicles on eBay and completed 45 sales, according to data available on the Web site.

But GM said the eBay exposure is prompting customers to visit dealerships to complete sales that aren't recorded on eBay.

"It's way too early in the program to have any concrete understanding of what's going on," said John McDonald, GM spokesman.

Mark Borjan, a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer, said he listed 70 vehicles on eBay and sold seven, but only one is recorded with eBay.

"I've sold some vehicles to people that saw the vehicles on eBay, but they didn't buy them on eBay. They called, came in and bought them," said Borjan, owner of Golden Hills Auto Center in Paso Robles, Calif. He sells about 300 new vehicles annually. Said McDonald: "eBay is generating leads. A big part of this is about generating awareness of GM products in the California market."

eBay said the GM eBay Web site had 630,000 visits in the first week and logged more than 960,000 searches of listed vehicles.

California is a tough market for GM. The automaker's market share is about 13 percent, according to McDonald. GM's national share through seven months this year was 19.6 percent.

Also, California's economy has been hit hard by the recession. Even Toyota, which dominates sales in California, has seen a 42.9 percent decline this year.

The Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and GMC vehicles are not being offered in eBay's traditional auction format. Instead, vehicles are listed at the manufacturer's suggested retail price, along with any incentives offered. A consumer can either buy the vehicle immediately at that price -- which no one did -- or submit an offer below the listed price. It's up to the dealer to accept or reject the offer.

GM said 225 dealerships are participating in the eBay pilot program, which started Aug. 11 and runs through Sept. 8.

By Richard Truett and Jamie LaReau- Automotive News