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The internet presence of the automobile industry and its dealerships grows more important every day to the process of automotive retailing.  Surveys indicate that most car buyers research their purchases on the web and an increasing number make their initial dealership contacts via e-mail after reviewing manufacturer and dealership websites.  ARA will review dealership websites to assess their ease of use and utility to the consumer.  The primary focus of these reviews will be the inventory search feature; the busy consumer, having researched his choices and narrowed his list, needs a good inventory search feature to complete his pre-dealership visit efforts.  Our procedure for this and future similar reviews involves choosing a random dealership.

For our first subject, ARA chose a dealership for General Motors.  The dealership is Midway Chevrolet Cadillac Buick Pontiac Toyota of Pocomoke City, Maryland.  Although Toyota is listed in the dealership title, no new Toyotas are listed in its inventory and the promotional material is for GM products.  No new Cadillacs appeared on the website at the time of the review.

This review was conducted Tuesday morning, January 26, 2010.

The dealership homepage leads off with the sales and service phone numbers, the dealership logo, a clear photograph of the dealership exterior, and a showroom photo featuring a new Camaro.  Photos of the dealership building and facilities are not included on the website by some dealers; this is a mistake.  A major investment has been made in these facilities and they are literally the “face” of the dealership.

A navigation bar leads to Vehicles, Finance, Service, Dealership Info, and Rental Vehicles.  The Vehicles tab has New and Used search features, Quick Quote, Incentives, Weekly Ad (a colorful ad is reproduced), OnStar, Accessories, and Certified Used.  Each tab contains informative content.  This matters; finding a tab with no content is not impressive!  The Finance tabs address the subjects Pre-Qualify, Estimator and Buy vs. Lease.  The Service tabs permit appointment making, parts requests, and discuss Goodwrench Service.  The Dealership Info section is thorough and includes color photographs, names, and titles of the staff.  The Rental Vehicle info lists the sizes and rates featured.  Also on the home page are a Tire Finder, Specials, information on the GM Preferred Owner program, Fuel Efficient Vehicles information, rotating promotional spots, the Black Book Online trade-in value link, and a GMAC link.  Midway is also on Facebook and provides the link.

Midway’s New Vehicle inventory (using a Chrome Systems template) comprises 69 listed vehicles.  Each listing features multiple photographs of the actual inventoried vehicle.  This is a plus, as some dealer New Vehicle listings use stock manufacturer art or photos or use one photo of the inventoried vehicle and fill the remainder of the slots with stock manufacturer photography of the model.  The photos can be enlarged and also display as a slideshow.  Window stickers are available for each car, although during our review several came up empty as “VIN invalid-car may have been sold.”  Perhaps the inventory was being updated at the time.

The dealership’s New Vehicle inventory included fourteen 2009 models (one Pontiac G6 Value Leader Sedan, one Buick Lucerne and a variety of Chevrolet models)  One 2010 Buick LaCrosse was in stock as were two Enclaves.  Two 2010 Camaros were available, one an SS model.  No Aveos or Corvettes were listed.  The 2010 inventory did include three Cobalts, one Colorado, one Equinox, three HHRs, eight Impalas, ten Malibus, twenty Silverados, one Suburban, and two Traverses.

The Used Car inventory listed is comprised of 41 vehicles.  Each vehicle presentation features multiple photographs of the actual inventoried vehicle and every vehicle has a photographic presentation.  As with the New Vehicle presentation, the photographs are enlargeable.  A review of five vehicle photo presentations revealed a variety of good exterior and interior shots but no trunk or underhood shots.  Trunk or underhood shots may not make impressive visuals but do assist in the evaluation of used car condition.

Used vehicles offered ranged from a lowest listed price of $5988 for a 2002 Saturn SC Three Door with 63.676 listed miles to a 2007 Cadillac STS with 14,303 listed miles at $25,988.00.  Years represented included the range from 2002 through 2009 although only one car each from each of the years 2002, 2003, and 2004 was included.  Cadillac, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Toyota, Dodge, Honda, Mazda, Scion, Chrysler, Jeep, Lexus, Nissan, and Saturn were the nameplates for sale, with a variety of vehicle types represented.  Some notable vehicles included a 2009 Ford Taurus X, a 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser, and a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser with a “woody” exterior treatment package.

Pocomoke City is nicknamed “the friendliest town on the Eastern Shore,” and is a city in Worcerster County, Maryland.  Pocomoke City’s population as of the 2000 census was 4098.

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