Ford Connects with AutoTrader.com for Used Car Sales

Online auto classifieds siteAutoTrader.com said Tuesday that it has inked a deal to host the used automobile search platform of FordDirect.com, the Internet venture of participating Ford dealers and Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F).

Under the new alliance, FordDirect car dealers will now have their used car inventories available to consumers on both FordDirect and AutoTrader.com.The new agreement doubles the number of online offerings FordDirect dealershave at their disposal, the company said.

AutoTrader.com will maintain the used car inventories and supply thetechnology. According to FordDirect, AutoTrader.com generates 5 millionunique visitors a month.

“With 40 to 45 million used car sales a year in the U.S., the potential ishuge,” FordDirect chief executive officer Devon Cohen said.

Additionally, shoppers looking for a new car on AutoTrader.com will now also have access to the same offerings found on FordDirect. AutoTrader customers will also be ableto access the used car inventories of the FordDirect dealers.

Dealers Unimpressed?

According to research firm research firm J.D. Power and Associates, more cardealers use AutoTrader than any other used car site. However, a recent studyconducted by the firm found that dealers do not see the Internet as a significant boon for luring car buyers.

The report found that dealers tend to view car buyers who make initialcontact with them over the Internet as “fickle customers who contactmultiple dealers in search of unrealistic discounts.”

At the same time, the study — an annual survey of dealer satisfaction withonline buying services — said that car dealers are turning to the Internetmore, with 61 percent signed up with at least one independent online buyingservice. A year ago, the figure was 55 percent.

Keeping Tabs

In fact, the online car sales competition is beginning to heat up. Several weeks ago, General Motors (NYSE: GM) announced a multi-million dollar marketing and advertising alliance with AOL.

In February, GM inked a deal with Autobytel.com to test an online shoppingsystem that will show consumers which cars are available for purchase intheir area. In May, the automaker said it would form apartnership with its network of dealers to build a Web shopping site calledAutoCentric, which will offer GM cars as well as other brands.

Launched in August 2000, FordDirect began operations in December in NewJersey and has since expanded on a state-by-state basis to include 21states. The company said it expects to be in every state sometime in 2002.

Info Please

Both Ford and GM have increased their efforts at making it easier forconsumers to quickly find the information they need to research their carpurchases.

Ford refers customers to Yahoo! Autos for independent reviews, while GM BuyPower partners with Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com to link information seekers to local dealers.

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