INTERACTIVE: ONLINE CAR, FINANCIAL SITES ADD FEATURES TO DRIVE TRAFFIC

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Hoping to become one-stop shops for car buyers, auto Web sites are adding supplemental services like financing and insurance.AutoConnect (www.autoconnect.net) will relaunch in the first quarter of 1998 as a joint project between Manheim Auctions, and the current owners of the site, Dealer Services Group of Automatic Data Processing. The existing AutoConnect has been up for about a year.The relaunched site has the potential to be one of the biggest car-buying sites yet. Manheim, a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, operates one of the country's largest auctions, selling about 3 million used cars yearly.Automatic Data handles billing, inventory, maintenance and other software operations for 10,000 of the 22,000 new-car dealers in the U.S.. However, the owners want to be more than just a car look-up service.

NOT YOUR FATHER'S CAR SITE"This is not going to be just a database search site. We want to help consumers in a broad way, from navigating the purchase price to getting the best financing and insurance," said Victor A. "Chip" Perry III, president-CEO of AutoConnect.AutoConnect will earn money from traditional Internet banners, sponsorship advertising and custom publishing. However, the new owners also plan to make money through transaction fees, similar to the way in which car dealers today earn fees from loan companies, warranty providers and insurance sales.The site will include its own editorial content on subjects such as lease vs. loan and tips for buying or selling. The owners are currently selecting an interactive ad agency.Another car site, Barnett Banks' subsidiary CarFinance.com, will expand its online auto financing services from 29 to 44 states by the first quarter of 1998. CarFinance.com has partnerships with nine other auto sites to link to its financing service.And last week, Keystone Financial launched a personalized decision guide for car shopping on its site (www.keyfin.com), to help drive new automobile financing transactions.Keystone said it's looking for a way to increase market share with a value-added service on the Net.

CAR MAKERS ADD NEW FEATURESAlso last week, Microsoft CarPoint (www.carpoint.com), an information site for buying new and used cars, was selected as the official Internet site for the 1998 North American International Autoshow in Detroit Jan. 5-19.Meanwhile, car marketers such as General Motors Corp. are adding more finance features to their sites, such as GM's new credit

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