AutoNation unveils online buying service

A way to buy a vehicle without entering dealership

Auto sales

June 23, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

DETROIT -- AutoNation Inc., the world's largest automotive retailer, introduced a new online buying service yesterday to capture part of a market forecast to explode from 15,000 vehicle sales this year to 500,000 in 2003.

AutoNationDirect.com is now available in the Tampa, Fla., area. Customers can reserve a vehicle for a test drive, withdraw money from their bank for a deposit and complete loan applications online. A nearby dealer would then deliver the vehicle to the customer's home.

AutoNation expects to generate $750 million in online sales this year, then double that in each of the next two years, said Steven Berrard, AutoNation's co-chief executive officer with Wayne Huizenga.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company owns dealerships representing most major automakers, something analysts say it can use to its advantage on the Internet.

"They will have extreme power in a few select markets," said James McQuivey, senior researcher with Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass.

"In Denver, where they jointly own nine dealerships with retired Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, they could literally own the market across every major brand."

AutoNation's new site is the second that enables a car buyer to buy without walking into the dealership. CarsDirect.com, backed by Dell Computer Corp. founder Michael Dell and other investors, was introduced in May.

One difference between that service and AutoNationDirect.com is that CarsDirect.com requires the paperwork be mailed to the customer's home.

A recent study by Forrester estimates that Americans will be buying cars and trucks online at a rate of a half-million vehicles a year by 2003.

Pub Date: 6/23/99

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