Autobytel.com Makes Deal To Offer Insurance

For first-time automobile buyers, one of the few things as frustrating as visiting a car dealership is figuring out which insurance company to use. On Thursday, online auto retailer Autobytel.com (Nasdaq: ABTL) announced a partnership that could help customers avoid that hassle.

Autobytel.com has teamed up with InsurQuote — a technology provider for the insurance industry — to offer customers real-time auto insurance quotes and to enable online application submissions with selected carriers. This service is currently available to customers in California, Florida and Illinois only, but is expected to be available to the majority of American consumers by the end of the year.

“The ability to comparison shop with just a few mouse clicks could provide an opportunity to realize substantial savings for our customers,” said Mark Lorimer, president and CEO of Autobytel.com. “We will continue to expand services such as financing, insurance, and maintenance programs as we strengthen our position as the ultimate online destination for auto-related commerce.”

Autobytel.com Gets Paid For Applications

The service is free for Autobytel.com’s users and can be used by customers who are shopping for automobiles or simply shopping for insurance. Autobytel.com will receive a fee from the insurance companies for each application submitted. The insurance companies available on Autobytel include MetLife Auto & Home Insurance, the Hartford (Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.), and the GE Auto Insurance Program.

Autobytel.com says the entire process will take less than 24 hours. First, customers will fill out an online application. The customers will receive multiple real-time quotes and then choose the most attractive offer. If the customer wishes to proceed, he or she will submit a quote application to the chosen insurer’s call center. The insurance company will reportedly call the customer within 24 hours to complete the policy issuance.

Autobytel.com As Market Leader

Autobytel.com and InsurQuote are attempting to tap into the fast-growing online auto insurance sales market, which is expected to grow from $21 million in 1997 to nearly $850 million in 2001. If Autobytel.com’s market share in online automobile sales translate to similar success in online auto insurance sales, the deal with InsurQuote could be extremely profitable.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, Autobytel.com generates nearly as many new-vehicle sales as its two closest competitors combined. In 1999, J.D. Power ranked Autobytel.com No. 1 in dealer satisfaction with online buying services for the second year in a row.

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