Mullen’s GM Site Hits Roadblock

The state of Texas has stymied General Motors’ plans to sell cars directly to online buyers through its new DriverSite.
Mullen in Wenham, Mass., has worked on the GM site since March and launched the Internet auto store for Houston-area car buyers earlier this month.
GM planned to test market the online service in Texas before rolling it out nationwide, said Rich Person, Mullen executive vice president for direct and interactive marketing. But the Texas Department of Transportation moved to block the sale of cars on the site, claiming it violates a state law prohibiting auto manufacturers from owning dealerships or acting as dealers. Some other states have similar laws. “It’s been a little bit of a glitch,” Person said. “But this program is going to move ahead. It is by no means dead.”
Customers who visit GM’s DriverSite would have been able to look over the inventory at a newly constructed auto center in Houston, put a deposit down on a car of their choice, and then head to the center to go on a test drive and complete the transaction.
The Web site (www.gmdriversite.com) states “GM DriverSite will be open for business soon. Please visit us again!”
Person said GM is looking for a way to run the site within the law, such as giving Texas dealers a stake in the program. He said Texas was chosen as a test site because it is far from Detroit and the media spotlight.
Person said the purchase would be a low-key, “Saturn-like experience.” DriverSite is one of seven or eight projects Mullen is working on for GM, Person said. In addition to setting up the site, the agency plans to advertise the program with TV, radio and print ads. Person would not disclose the billings for the account.
GM executives did not return calls by press time.