The Midas touch that Michael Dell brought to the computer industry has convinced investors he can work the same magic in the auto business.
Dell, founder of Dell Computer Corp., made himself a billionaire by using the Internet to sell directly to customers.
He was a key first-round investor in CarsDirect.com, a Web retailing startup that got rolling in May with $30 million in private funding. In November, it attracted another $280 million.
The latest round of private _equity financing was among the largest in the dot-com industry this year. Automotive News reporters and editors voted it the Coup of the Year.
CarsDirect.com, despite its name, actually adds another layer to the distribution chain because it buys vehicles from dealers. And CarsDirect.com had a little problem starting out. The company was underpricing cars and trucks it was reselling to Web surfers. It lost about $1,500 on average per deal.
But CarsDirect.com execs say they've learned their lesson.