Since customers are becoming more and more aware of their vehicles, they naturally want want their cars to be more accustomed to their wants and needs. This is probably why General Motors Corp. plans to become the first automaker to give its buyers a chance to watch their cars being built to order over the Internet.
The pilot program will cover a handful of plants where GM seeks to deliver custom-ordered cars within 10 days, instead of the current 60 to 70 days, Mark Hogan, president of the company's on-line unit, told Bloomberg.
According to Hogan, the company's Oldsmobile Alero and Pontiac Grand Am factory in Lansing, Michigan, may be the first assembly line wired with cameras in some areas to let customers watch production. He added that The Detroit-based company will e-mail customers when their cars move through the wired parts of the plant.
Hogan gave Bloomberg a time frame for the world's largest automaker to start the program of this year's end, expanding nationwide in three to four years.
Customers demand a firm delivery deadline from GM for custom-ordered cars, and some buyers expressed interest in watching their cars get built, Hogan said.
GM would be the world's first automaker to let customers use the Internet to watch cars get built, the automaker and Ron Harbour, president of manufacturing consulting firm Harbour & Associates, were quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
On the other hand, Harbour warned that the move could backfire if GM fails to deliver cars on time.
"You better clean up your house before you open the drapes," Bloomberg quoted him as saying.
According to Bloomberg, GM wants to build half its vehicles to order in coming years, up from 20 percent now. Hogan told the American news agency that the company sold 4.95 million vehicles in the US last year, and that it's working with Oracle Corp. on a system to let customers order specific combinations of models, engines, colors, trim packages and options.
Bloomberg said GM is in talks with Toyota Motor Co. about offering its products through the Toyota consumer Web site called Gazoo.com, and about offering its Onstar satellite communications system in Lexus luxury products. It is also talking with Honda Motor Co. about offering OnStar products on Acura luxury vehicles and expects an announcement this week, Hogan told Bloomberg.
It added that the shopping Web site GM uses, GMBuyPower.com, will be expanded this year to include Brazil, Australia, France, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
OnStar is expected to sign up 4 million customers and generate $1 billion in annual revenue by 2002, Gary Lapidus, a Goldman Sachs analyst, told Bloomberg. Eventually, it could generate more revenue than DirecTV, which is owned by GM subsidiary Hughes Electronic Corp., Hogan said. DirecTV generated $3.8 billion in revenue in 1999, said Bloomberg –Albawaba.com
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