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Industry Spotlight Online Checkout Though the fate of Tesla's attempts to break away from the dealer franchise model remains to be seen, there's one piece of its business model dealers are gradually getting on board with. By Stephanie Forshee W ith Tesla doing battle with dealers in states like Texas, Massachusetts and Ohio over its online, direct-toconsumer retail model, General Motors' decision to offer a similar buying method to car buyers may seem puzzling. But there's a twist to what the domestic OEM is offering. Rather than cutting out its 4,300 dealers, GM is putting the fate of its new online buying option squarely in their hands. But there's good reason to believe GM was taking a page from Tesla's playbook when it launched its ShopClick-Drive program in November. Earlier this year, reports surfaced 24 F&I and Showroom NADA 2014 that GM created a task force to keep an eye on the electric vehicle maker. But GM offcials are quick to note the company has no plans to sell directly to consumers. "It's completely different than Tesla, because the customers are buying the vehicles from dealers, not buying them from the OEM," Ryndee Carney, GM spokesperson, tells F&I and Showroom. "The vehicle sales transaction must be completed by the dealership. The dealer controls how the application works on his or her dealership website, so it's compliant with franchise laws. "GM has no intention of selling directly to consumers, now or in the future," she stresses. Early returns have been modest at best, dealers report. But like GM, dealers like Bill Marsh Jr., who operates six locations in the Traverse City, Mich., area, view this new online buying option as an opportunity to develop a better connection between their online and showroom experience. "We see two things: that in the next fve to 10 years there'll be an increasing number of Gen Y [buyers in our area], because they're going to be getting older and people want to raise their kids in an area that has good schools and safety and high quality of life," says Marsh, one of the roughly 400 GM dealers using the program. "And two, you're going to see older people — Gen X and Baby Boomers PHOTO CREDIT: ALLEN-KENT PHOTOGRAPHY Dealer Bill Marsh Jr. is one of the roughly 400 General Motors dealers currently using the OEM's new Shop-Click-Drive program, an online buying option rolled out in November.