Auto Dealers to Launch Joint Web Site

FRAMINGHAM (03/20/2000) - The primary trade group for auto dealers in the U.S. plans to launch a Web site this spring that it promises will reveal all -- including invoice prices -- to buyers.

The National Automobile Dealers Association has partnered with Seattle-based Cobalt Group Inc. to launch NADAdealers.com in May, a site that will list invoice prices of the cars that participating dealers are selling. The site will also let buyers search for particular new cars and dealers by location, the companies said.

Auto dealers have been going to the Web with increasing frequency during the past three years, but they have resisted listing pricing information until now, according to Mike Morrissey, a spokesman for NADA.

"I don't think any business relishes having their invoice price out there, but it's something the dealers have come to accept," said Morrissey.

When the Web site launches near the beginning of May, it will contain listings of 500,000 new vehicles from 6,000 dealers, Morrissey said. The goal is to get most of the association's 19,500 dealers to sign onto the site, he said.

About 80 percent of auto dealers already have Web sites, but the new portal will make it easier for buyers to find the cars they're looking for and the dealerships that will best serve them, Morrissey said.

At the site, after a buyer finds the car he's looking for, he will work with the dealer to make the purchase, which could include negotiating the sales price via e-mail, in person or in some other manner, Morrissey said.

"This is the best way to combine the personal service of the dealership with the conveniences of the Web," he said.

But the age-old stereotype of car dealers will likely make it tough for NADAdealers.com to compete with the likes of Autobytel.com Inc. in Irvine, California, and Microsoft's CarPoint.com, according to Jonathan Gaw, an auto industry analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC) in Mountain View, California.

"This site, because it's by the dealers, it's probably going to be (favorable to) the dealers, and that puts some buyers on edge," he said.

Dealers who use Web building and hosting services from The Cobalt Group Inc. in Seattle can participate in the portal for free. Those who don't can join for a monthly fee, according to Amy Anderson, a Cobalt spokeswoman.

The portal is the latest in a series of developments to increase e-commerce.

Late last year, Business To Business Commerce Network Inc. in Houston launched a Web-based parts-trading and supply-procurement exchange for automotive dealers.

And last month, the Big Three automakers announced plans to form a common Internet automotive trade exchange.

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