SIDEBAR: Customers say online buying is easy

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While some companies worry that security issues will keep customers away, AutoByTel appears to have discovered the secret to Internet sales success: If you make it easier to buy online than in person, customers will come.

Joel Ragovin of Norwich, Conn., and his wife Sue had their Hyundai just three weeks after visiting the Web site.

"Within 48 hours they got back to us," through a dealer in Bridgeport, 60 miles from Norwich, Mr. Ragovin says. "It was just $259 over the invoice price, and we got exactly what we wanted, the color and everything."

Linda Mazzitelli of Reston, Va., bought a new BMW through AutoByTel in March. "We did the whole deal over the phone," after finding a dealer through the site, she says. "When I was able to focus on getting a car I told them I could take delivery fast if they came down on the price," and the dealer did.

Andrea Pedang, the AutoByTel manager for Lexus of Westminster, Calif., says these buyers are typical.

"The AutoByTel client has a little more knowledge of what's going on," she says. "Once they get me they can get everything they want to know over the phone, even the price," a service other callers can't get.

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