September 13, 2004, 12:00 AM

Why CarsDirect wants online buyers racing to

Not to be outdone by other third-party sites, CarsDirect is introducing a new research portal that ranks new cars from best to worst in 12 different categories.

Car advertising, whether it is on the web or off, is usually a game of one-upmanship. Just as new and used cars dealers will always try to top the competition and do whatever it takes to put the buyer "in that car tomorrow," the same holds true for online third-party auto sites.

To drive traffic to their respective sites, third-party automotive research and advertising sites are outdoing themselves these days to introduce new applications or site redesigns. To enhance customer service for online car buyers who use the web as a research and vehicle comparison tool, Kelley Blue Book is implementing a major site redesign. And recently launched a new service that lets shoppers configure a desired automobile and request bids from dealers.

Not to be outdone, CarsDirect, a privately held company whose owners include, Oracle Corp. and about 10 other investment bank and large dealer groups including UnitedAuto Group/Penske Automotive and Asbury Automotive, is introducing a new portal for those consumers who are still fine-tuning their short-list of potential new vehicles.

The new portal,, offers comparisons on more than 500 new vehicle models that are ranked from best to worst in 12 different categories, including price, resale value, safety and performance.

Each model is assigned individual ratings for its performance in these categories and can be quickly compared to others, says CarsDirect CEO Bob Brisco.

"We have more than 100 professionals doing the research for car buyers ˆ collecting the data, crunching the numbers and making it simple to understand," Brisco says.

Third-party advertising and research sites are updating their content and applications at a hectic pace these days because more than 134 million car buyers now use the web to begin -- or end -- their search for a new or used car, says Jupiter Research.

CarsDirect, which works with about 3,000 new and used car dealers, offers a program whereby online new car buyers pay one Internet-specific price for a vehicle, use a dealer locater service to find the dealer with the nearest available inventory, and then choose among different finance options through major financial institutions such as J.P Morgan & Co. to pay for the car and complete the transaction online.


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