DETROIT — The world’s two largest automakers announced new alliances with Internet companies Sunday, the latest in a string of deals between the online world and major corporations.
General Motors Corp. said it plans to use America Online’s redesigned Auto Channel to let AOL’s 20 million members shop for GM cars and trucks. Sales would be completed at a GM dealership.
Ford Motor Co. announced it has partnered with Yahoo! to provide online services for its vehicle owners. Jac Nasser, Ford president and CEO, said the deal was a sign of the company’s new focus on the Internet, a change he said would affect every part of its business.
“The world is moving online, and we want to ensure that we meet consumers there, meeting their needs in the virtual world as well as the physical world,” Nasser said.
The Ford and GM deals follow a series of similar agreements between large retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kmart Corp., and Internet players such as Yahoo! and America Online.
For the online companies, such deals give them a new outlet to advertise their name and expose themselves to a new customer base. The traditional merchants, meantime, gain well-known and respected technology partners that can help them build their own Internet businesses.
Starting Sunday, owners of Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda vehicles could register their cars at autos.yahoo.com or OwnerConnection.com and access owner guides, recall notifications, Ford Credit account information and personalized maintenance logs. Jaguar and Volvo owners soon will be able to use the service as well, Ford said.
AOL said its Auto Channel service will relaunch later this year. The world’s largest Internet service provider also said it will launch a service this spring called My Auto. The site will let members receive news and maintenance information about their cars.
Together with GM, the world’s largest full-line vehicle manufacturer, we will make the car-shopping experience easier and more convenient than ever,” said Bob Pittman, president and chief executive officer of AOL.
Ford, the world’s second-largest producer of cars and trucks, said its new service eventually will allow drivers to schedule service appoints with their dealer online and chat online with Ford engineers and company officials.
Phil Guarascio, GM’s vice president and general manager for advertising and corporate marketing, said automakers recognize that more people are turning to the Internet for vehicle information. In 1999, more than 2 million consumers used the Internet to get information to help them buy a new car, according to Forrester Research.
The Internet is an increasingly important marketing and advertising medium, and this alliance is the latest in our efforts to strategically market our products and deeply engage prospects,” Guarascio said in a statement.