- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO | Hundreds of General Motors’ California dealers will let consumers haggle over the prices of new cars and trucks through the eBay online marketplace under a trial that begins Tuesday.

About 225 of California’s 250 GM dealers are set to take part in the program. They will be selling Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Pontiac vehicles on co-branded Web sites through eBay Inc.’s online auto marketplace, eBay Motors, until Sept. 8. The cars will also be searchable through eBay Motors and eBay’s main site.

Although the companies previously said such a trial was in the works, details weren’t released until Monday.

The trial is part of Detroit-based General Motor Co.’s turnaround plan, making more official a practice some of its dealers had already participated in on their own. It expands an existing partnership covering GM certified used vehicles sold through eBay.

It also marks a shift for San Jose, Calif.-based eBay, since most of the vehicles sold on eBay Motors - a site that sells various types of vehicles and auto parts - have traditionally been used.

Starting Tuesday, eBay visitors will be able to visit Web pages such as http://gm.ebay.com and http://chevy.ebay.com, where they can browse new 2008 and 2009 vehicles, ask dealers questions and figure out financing. Select 2010 models also will be available.

The co-branded sites will also include a Web tool now on eBay Motors that helps shoppers determine whether they’re qualified to trade in their old car for money toward a new one under the government’s just-refilled “cash for clunkers” stimulus program.

Car buyers will be able to choose between the two standard options now offered on eBay Motors - negotiating a price with a dealer through the site or purchasing right then at a fixed price. Cars will be picked up at the dealerships.

EBay Motors Vice President Rob Chesney said the companies decided to run the trial in California because there are many tech-savvy consumers there. EBay users who live outside California can contact dealers to see whether they’re willing to sell and ship vehicles to them, he said.

If the companies feel the trial is successful, they want to expand it across the country. Lorrie Norrington, president of eBay marketplaces, said eBay may eventually try doing the same thing with other automakers, too.

The test comes a month after GM made an unusually quick exit from bankruptcy protection with ambitions of becoming profitable and building cars people are eager to buy. Once the world’s largest and most powerful automaker, the new GM is now leaner, cleansed of massive debt and burdensome contracts that would have sunk it without additional federal loans.

Meanwhile. GMAC Financial Services said Monday that it would offer a leasing option on select vehicles to drivers in 45 states.

GMAC officials said its improved funding flexibility, the completion of GM’s financial restructuring and higher used car values have made leasing a viable financing option again.

“While we do not expect leasing to return to its heyday levels across all models, it remains an attractive financing tool for certain segments, particularly new launch vehicles and select models in the luxury market,” said GMAC President Bill Muir.

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