DETROIT-General Motors Corp. is going high tech to speed communications with its dealer network via the planned Aug. 19 rollout of its new factory-dealer satellite communications system. Designed to speed sales and service information and almost eliminate paper, computer disks and CD-ROMs, the network is called GM ACCESS. The company can electronically update dealer software and provide real-time information on buyer incentives, warranties, service and other subjects, said GM's Marvin Kay, manager of dealer information management for North American Operations.
For instance, service information sent via ACCESS is available to technicians the day it is released. That will save several days to several weeks over the current system of mailing CD-ROMs.
Last February, GM began installing the system in the dealerships of 14 members of its Dealer Advisory Council. Russ Shelton, a council member, said the system saves ``10 minutes here and 15 minutes there'' and cuts down on paper.
``It's changing the way we do business,'' said the owner of Russ Shelton Pontiac-Buick in Rochester Hills, Mich.
GM's current system prints information on paper or mails CD-ROMs and computer disks.
At no cost, GM will provide ACCESS computers and peripherals to dealers, who can then integrate ACCESS into their computer systems, said Wayne Stein, ACCESS project manager at GM's Electronic Data Systems (EDS) unit. The system is exclusive to GM and will not include dealers' non-GM franchises.
GM ACCESS is the second phase of Pulsat, a private satellite network GM created in 1991 to communicate with GM dealers.
The system results from 20 months of study with EDS Automotive Retail Group, Automatic Data Processing Inc., Reynolds & Reynolds, Universal Computer Systems Inc. and DPC Inc.
Reynolds & Reynolds, which provides communication products for 50 percent of GM's dealer network, will integrate GM ACCESS into its system for its dealer clients, said Rick White, director of marketing for auto company services at Reynolds & Reynolds.
``We see it as a natural evolution and enhancement to Pulsat,'' Mr. White said. ``We'll be ready when GM starts rolling it out.''
Peter Leger, president of ADP's Dealer Services Group, was a member of a steering committee that was in on the early design of ACCESS. He said his company is working closely with GM to decide how the system will be integrated into existing ADP dealership communication systems. About 35 percent of GM dealerships use ADP's system, he estimated.
GM's Mr. Kay said GM ACCESS will cut by 30 percent the time it takes the automaker to communicate information to its dealers.
Additionally, it can save individual dealers as much as $4,400 annually in labor costs because it eliminates time-consuming manuals, messages on paper, and the dozens of computer disks sent every year from the factory.
Testing at 66 dealerships was to continue until Aug. 2. GM expects to have the system operational in all its dealerships by August 1997.
GM Acceptance Corp., GM's Service Parts Operations, and all GM marketing divisions except Saturn will participate.
``We believe that we are establishing an information template,'' said Mr. Kay, ``that the rest of the industry can use.''