Forget that Ford Motor Co. ever bashed online auto brokers. Now it has turned to copying them - and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
You don't have to look much farther than the name of the online shopping portal Ford has created jointly with its dealers - FordDirect.com. It bears an obvious resemblance to CarsDirect.com, the name of the Culver City, Calif., online auto broker financed by Michael Dell.
Ford also makes little attempt to mask the similarities in the FordDirect.com and CarsDirect. com site formats. The FordDirect. com site recently was launched as a pilot in central New Jersey. In a few cases, it appears FordDirect.com just copied some pages from CarsDirect.com and changed the wording a bit. For example, the way prices and estimated payments are posted is very similar.
Copying the site design won't hurt Ford or its dealers. CarsDirect. com has received kudos for its design, content and easy navigation.
But like CarsDirect.com, Ford Direct.com also posts a no-haggle price - a feature that has landed CarsDirect.com in trouble. The broker has sold cars at a loss to boost volume.
Ford dealers have voiced concerns that FordDirect.com's e-price could shrink their profit margins. If FordDirect.com wants to copy CarsDirect.com, it should stop with the design.
In other dot-com news:
Santa was particularly good to at least one automotive site, according to New York research firm Media Metrix. CarPoint.com ranked first among the retail sites in average daily unique visitors week over week during the week before Christmas. The number of visitors jumped 113 percent to 113,000 the week ending Dec. 24. That's up from 53,000 the week ending Dec. 17.
About 1 percent of personal insurance policies in the United States are bought over the Internet today and auto policies are the most popular, says a report by Meridien Research of Newton, Mass.
You can reach Staff Reporter Donna Harris at 540-668-7295 or [email protected]