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July 13, 2021

Would you buy a new GM off eBay?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

No one gets picked on more in this space than General Motors.

While the recent sins of, say, Chrysler or AIG may be on par – for whatever reason – GM takes it the worst. They’re like Mary-Kate Olsen at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest: they can’t win.

But for all its pitfalls, damnit if GM can’t make headlines.

In a bid to give lagging sales mouth-to-mouth, the struggling manufacturer has announced its dealers could soon begin selling new cars through eBay.

CEO Fritz Henderson said GM and the Internet auction site are looking to team up to sell the vehicles using eBay’s traditional bidding system, but dealers could also have the option to set a predetermined “Buy it Now” price buyers could opt for.

And we have to admit, the move shows a heck of lot of ingenuity on the part of GM, who appear now to be realizing the best way to maximize that $2-billion-a-year marketing budget just might be to open up as many avenues as possible for people to buy your cars.

The proposed strategy also springs forth an intriguing debate on the consumer side of things. Would you seriously consider buying a new GM off eBay?

Your traditional car buyer is going to tell you you’d be an idiot to toss thousands at a set of wheels you haven’t even stepped in yet, but is that process really as crucial as it once was?

GM’s virtual showroom is packed full of about three dozen intimate, detailed pictures of each model, and it’s likely their website will soon go the way of Mazda’s, who give you a Whoa-inducing (click 'View Interior') 360-degree online tour of their cars that's genuinely not far removed from actually sitting in the thing yourself.

It’s argued, of course, that’s there’s no substitute for getting the feel of a new car, and that’s certainly right. But that notion may also be a bit misguided. What percentage of car buyers would you say seriously put a considerable amount of stock into how a car performed during its test drive? 15? 20? What’s more, would it not also be fair to say that most new GMs, within the same class and relative specs, now generally perform about the same?

In any case, the absence of a material meeting with your new car appears to be the only downside to the eBay arrangement. You would still be buying from an actual dealer and would have someone in the flesh to contact. Your warranty and feature-customization would, presumably, all be taken care of.

It all sounds very plausible to me, at least. Add to the mix the draw of eBay which – by its nature as an auction site, is designed to land buyers considerable discounts every one in a while – and you’d have to think this move is a good way for GM to get some oomph behind this whole recovery thing they’re trying.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...