Jeff Bennett:

Alvin Kowalik has purchased many General Motors Co. pickup trucks over the years. But last year, the cattle rancher in Selma, Texas, tried something new, and purchased a pickup through GM’s Shop-Click-Drive website.

“I found the truck, listed my trade-in and was given the sales price. A nice lady from the dealership calls me, we made a deal, they drove it out and I signed the papers,” Mr. Kowalik said.

For Mr. Kowalik, 68 years old, the transaction was easy. For GM, the deal effectively took three years, involving an overhaul of its computer infrastructure, beginning with creating its own software development unit and building programs to reflect customers’ preference for online shopping and ordering.