General Motors, eBay Call It Quits

September 30, 2009

Somebody smarter than us once said, "Better to have tried and lost than to have never tried at all". (Or something to that effect.) That "oh well, we gave it a shot" sentiment seems to sum up General Motors' attitude toward its relationship with eBay, which comes to an amicable end today.

As you might recall, Bob Lutz first announced plans to sell GM vehicles through eBay the very day that General Motors emerged from bankruptcy. Subsequently, eBay learned of the arrangement, and the two set off to sell vehicles through GM's subdomain on eBay.com. The plan was for potential car buyers to peruse new GM vehicles and make bids, after which they'd be put in touch with their local dealership. In other words, eBay motors was used as GM's second showroom -- virtual bait to lure buyers onto very real lots. As with other eBay auctions, each car on the site had a "Buy Now" option, but car sales being what they are, buyers have tended to prefer face-to-face wheeling and dealing.

The program was slated to end on September 30, and apparently, it's sticking to that schedule. According to the Associated Press, the GM subdomain of eBay received 1.5 million visits over the course of the program's run, which generated about 15,000 leads for GM dealers. Neither General Motors nor eBay would comment on how many of those leads turn into sales, but when we last checked on the program at the beginning of September, that figure was closer to 4,000.

It's safe to assume that if the program had proven successful, both GM and eBay would be anxious to keep it around. However, even though the program's sales might not have been stellar, GM has learned some things from the alliance. Said General Motors spokesman John McDonald, "We're taking what we learned from eBay and applying it to our digital and social marketing media marketing strategies.... From our view, it was a success."

Some may see that as the case of "yeah, we meant to do that", but the fact of the matter is, the program did earn General Motors some nice publicity, and it likely didn't cost either GM or eBay too much cash. At the very least, we can say the company tried something new -- which is more than we could often say about the old GM.

[AssociatedPress]

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