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GM's CEO wants millennials 'to start buying cars over the internet'

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GM OnStar Relay Rides
GM OnStar Relay Rides

The CEO of General Motors says his company wants to allow customers to order cars over the internet. Speaking during GM's quarterly earnings investor call, CEO Dan Akerson suggested the automaker is actively exploring the concept — which could bring GM closer to Tesla's innovative retail structure. "I don’t think it should go without passing to note that we want people to start buying cars over the internet," Akerson said. He described these theoretical web sales as "a potential half-step away from our traditional channels."

It seems Tesla is proving influential

But without hesitation, Akerson made sure to head off any potential concern from GM's vast dealer network. "It doesn’t mean we’re going to try and bypass our dealers," he said. "But why not in this tech-savvy culture we have, this economy we have, with the millennials coming and saying, ‘I can come and shop and I’ll just go down and sign and go.'" Akerson provided no date or even a vague timeframe as to when you'll be able to reserve your next GM vehicle online. "We're trying to evolve not only from an internal perspective but an external perspective to a more 21st century information-based marketing company," the CEO said.

Unlike Tesla, which is relatively new to the car industry compared to its peers, moving to online purchases poses a significant challenge for companies like GM. Whereas Tesla sells both online and via self-owned retail stores (a strategy which has drawn some criticism), traditional auto manufacturers are responsible for enormous dealer networks. A sudden push into web ordering could quickly disrupt that model. But the days of haggling with a local car salesman may be coming to a close sooner than you'd think.