Honda Won't Take Online Competition Lying Down



American Honda Motor Co. Inc. doesn't want sites such as Carsdirect.com, Autobytel.com, and Microsoft's CarPoint.com to get any cozier with its dealers. So the carmaker this week is launching Web-site functions that help consumers search for dealers, get price quotes online, and line up financing through Honda.

"Other online sites were getting in between our own sales, customers, and dealers," says Michael Keranen, senior manager of technology for Honda's E-business division. Keranen enlisted the aid of Cambridge Technology Partners to beef up its site. Dealers who sign up to receive leads generated from the site will either pay a monthly subscription fee or give Honda a percentage of any sale resulting from the lead, depending on state regulations.

The Spring Branch Honda dealership in Houston already gets a good number of leads each month from CarPoint. "We pay a subscription fee to CarPoint.com and get about 100 to 150 leads a month," says Mike Reed, manager for the Spring Branch dealership. Reed hopes Honda's lead-generation initiative will prove just as fruitful, and he's signed on for that as well. Neither Honda nor Reed would disclose fee specifics.

Honda's Keranen says Cambridge and his own staff worked to integrate the online site with Honda's customer-relationship management database to better track all leads generated online. They also integrated the site with Honda's financing department's credit-assessing system, letting consumers at the site find out if they're approved for financing in a minute or so. Under Honda's plan, the only step the customer needs to complete at the dealership is the final paperwork.

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