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Cobalt and Respond Launch Service to Reduce Dealers' Internet Lead Costs

February 5, 2001

The Cobalt Group, a provider of e-business products and services to the automotive industry, has announced Pick-or-Pass(TM), which company officials describe as the first e-business service that provides automotive dealers with the ability to control their online lead costs and increase their return on investment associated with Internet leads.

With Pick-or-Pass, dealers view the lead information, "pick" which leads they want to purchase, and "pass" on the unwanted leads, paying only for those leads they want to pursue. According to John Holt, president and CEO of The Cobalt Group, Pick-or-Pass offers a low-cost alternative to online buying serivces that require expensive fixed subscription fees and provide no control over the type or quality of leads dealers receive.

Cobalt has launched Pick-or-Pass in partnership with Respond, a provider of request-driven lead generation solutions that match businesses with buyers. Respond provides the online request technology for Pick-or-Pass while Cobalt manages the network of participating dealers.

Edmunds.com, a consumer resource for unbiased automotive information, will be the first partner to provide leads to dealers through Pick-or-Pass. Cobalt and Respond plan to expand the network of high-traffic partner sites participating in the Pick-or-Pass program, so dealers will receive high-quality leads from multiple sources.

"Pick-or-Pass gives dealers control over lead costs which is difficult to achieve with existing third-party buying site programs," Holt said. "By partnering with leading automotive content providers like Edmunds.com, we can give dealers access to high-quality leads with documented high closing ratios. Since dealers only pay for the leads they want to pursue, Pick-or-Pass helps dealers optimize their lead volume and reduce their lead costs, thereby realizing a rapid return on their investment."

Dealers access Pick-or-Pass and purchase leads through Cobalt's MotorPlace.com dealer portal. To enroll in the program, dealers visit MotorPlace.com and provide their lead preferences, including the vehicle makes and zip code range for which they will accept leads. The service is then activated and dealers begin receiving lead alerts the next business day.

A consumer searching for a vehicle on a Pick-or-Pass partner site such as Edmunds.com completes and submits an online vehicle purchase request form that is then sent via e-mail to matching dealers. Before purchasing the lead, dealers are allowed to review detailed lead information including vehicle make, model, year and price, as well as the consumer's zip code and source of the lead, to determine if they want to purchase the lead. The dealer that responds first pays a nominal one-time fee, entitling them to immediately contact the consumer. Once purchased, the lead will no longer be available to other dealers.

Presently many consumer automotive sites generate "orphan leads" which never find their way to a dealer. "With more than 8,500 dealer e-business customers nationwide, Cobalt can route leads to interested dealers in all regions of the country to match the consumer interest generated by leading automotive sites such as Edmunds.com," Holt said. "Since dealers only pay for the leads best suited to their existing vehicle inventory, Pick-or-Pass offers an excellent return on investment for the dealer's lead generation dollar. In addition, since dealers will make the choice to purchase a lead, it is likely that they will respond quickly, thus increasing consumer satisfaction."

"More than three million car shoppers visit Edmunds.com each month and 80 percent of the people who express an interest in buying an automobile on Edmunds.com actually purchase one within 120 days," said Jeremy Anwyl, president of Edmunds.com. "Pick-or-Pass will enter the Edmunds.com Powershopper service as another effective option for these qualified car buyers to consider when they are ready to make their automotive purchases."

"With the growing number of car shoppers using the Web during the car buying process, there is a real need for technology that connects motivated consumers with dealers," said Lyn Chitow Oakes, president and CEO of Respond. "We see the Pick-or-Pass program as a win-win for car buyers and dealers and we are pleased to extend our lead generation solution into the online automotive retail sector."

Dealers can enroll in Pick-or-Pass immediately. Edmunds.com will begin sending leads to dealers on March 1.

About The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group(TM), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., is a provider of e-business products and services designed to help automotive dealers and manufacturers manage their businsses online.

Cobalt's suite of e-business solutions includes Web services, Web site hosting, e-commerce applications, Internet-based customer relationship management applications, data management, and best practices training and consulting.

Cobalt operates MotorPlace.com(TM) (www.motorplace.com), an online business management and industry information resource for auto dealers.

About Respond

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Respond(TM) (www.respond.com) is a request-driven lead generation solution that matches businesses with purchase-ready buyers.

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