Used-vehicle Web sites, offering a varying degree of usefulness to dealers and consumers, are popping up like weeds on the Internet.
Chris Denove, author of an upcoming J.D. Power and Associates study titled 'Used Autoshopper.com,' expects the weeding out to commence soon.
'Within two years you'll see three or four dominant used-vehicle locator sites that far surpass any of the other sites out there,' Denove said.
Two weeks ago AutoConnect LLC agreed to pay big bucks - $17 million - to secure its place on that short list. The deal makes AutoConnect (www.autoconnect.com) the exclusive provider of used-vehicle listings to America Online and its 17 million members.
Denove says most people find their way to Web sites such as www.autoconnect.com through links on online systems such as America Online or Internet entry portals such as Yahoo! 'To be successful, you need to have your button or icon on the major portal sites,' he said.
Denove says Atlanta-based AutoConnect also has amassed the largest inventory of used vehicles with plenty of help from Manheim Auctions Inc., which is a co-owner of AutoConnect and boasts of being the world's largest auto auction company. 'You certainly wouldn't want to bet against them,' Denove said.
Denove isn't ready to bet against Auto Trader Online or Cars.com either. Microsoft CarPoint and Autobytel.com also are coming on strong. CarPoint and Autobytel 'have great dealer services in place already; they just have to find a way to put more used cars online,' he said.
Denove stresses the importance of inventory size and inventory diversity, one thing AutoConnect still needs to improve. For example, Auto Trader Online, owned by Trader Publishing Co. in Norfolk, Va., has a much better balance between vehicle listings from dealers and private parties.
If Denove is right about used vehicles and the Web, dealers need to pay attention to which sites survive.
Said Denove: 'Within five years, the Internet will be the key way people will locate used vehicles for sale.'
Joe Miller welcomes comments. Call him at (313) 446-1635 or send e-mail to [email protected]