According to the marketing magazine Precision Marketing (3 July 2000) the American car building giant General Motors is to invest $1.7bn in its E-commerce operation, e-GM, which it hopes will see the manufacturer sell up to 80 per cent of its cars custom-built over the internet by 2003. But they will still be delivered via dealers. Will all high-end bike manufacturers follow suit?

Will IBDs prosper in an era of mass market customisation?

General Motors of Detroit has appointed more than 200 e-commerce specialists over the last four years to drive its online ambitions, says Precision Marketing.

The corporation’s web site,, handles up to 20 per cent of overall sales, with just one per cent of the custom-built output being ordered online.

The site offers a service where consumers choose the make, model, trim, category and optional extras they require, and then sends the consumer to the nearest dealer with the desired car in stock.

However, in the future, cars are expected to be made to order, based on specifications set by the consumer online.

Orders would be fulfilled by dealers within 15 to 20 days. Dealers arent put out of the loop by the new way of working because they will still be the consumers first port of call for seeing cars in the flesh. Naturally, the dealers also get first refusal on consumer serviving contracts.

The parallels with the bike trade are obvious. Many bike manufacturers are exploring just such a business model. Some such as Dawes have already dipped their toes in the water.

The danger for IBDs is getting cut from the loop. Those who offer an excellent retail experience rather than just a showroom of bike brands will be in the strongest position for ongoing partnership relationships with the new breed of custom built mass market bike brands.

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