SAN FRANCISCO, California. February 6, 1999.
Today at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention and Exposition, a group of leading automotive suppliers announced they plan to collaborate on a new open standard that will help automobile dealers improve and streamline their processes for selling cars on the Internet. The group, composed of AutoSite, Auto Trader Online, AutoVantage, Cars.com, The Cobalt Group Inc., Kelley Blue Book, MSN CarPoint, The Reynolds and Reynolds Co., and Stoneage.com, plans to work to develop a common standard based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) for conveying consumer e-mail and purchase requests to automotive dealerships. Ultimately, consumers will receive the greatest benefit from this effort, as a result of auto dealers' ability to deliver higher-quality customer service and faster response times.
"Timeliness and high-quality customer interaction are always crucial to any kind of brand development, but it's especially important when working in the disparate, fast-moving and competitive Web environment," said Jill Frankle, analyst at International Data Corp. "The new standard should give auto dealers an edge in providing fast, high-quality customer service that will benefit both consumers and dealer businesses."
The need for such a standard is further supported by J.D. Power and Associates research indicating that more than 25 percent of new car shoppers now incorporate the Internet into their car-buying process. Separately, figures from the leading Internet automotive services working on the new open standard indicate that more than five percent of all new-car purchases in the United States are now arranged through an online service.
While this boom in online shopping has been a benefit for consumers, it has also created a new challenge for car dealers, namely managing Internet customer inquiries and purchase requests in a timely, efficient manner. Without standardized tools and processes in place, many dealers find this the most challenging aspect of online retailing.
"Our research shows that successful Internet managers at dealerships are currently inundated with online leads, and that dealing with all of the different systems used by the various services is an obstacle to properly responding to Internet customers," said Chris Denove, director of consulting operations, J.D. Power and Associates. "Our research suggests that solutions that will unify these systems will be well-received by dealers, because they will have more time to spend with customers rather than dealing with the technical differences between the various services."
The new standard will help software developers and solution providers create open-standard software tools to enable dealers to more effectively manage and track their Internet leads. The tools will also enable dealers to centrally manage all their Internet customers, including those from their own Web sites, from other online car services, or directly from auto manufacturers.
All of the companies in the group plan to participate in ongoing work to finalize, update and maintain the specification as appropriate. Third parties interested in using the standard to develop solutions can access a draft of the XML specification document at http://carpoint.msn.com/xml/ or on the Web sites of any of the other participating companies.
NOTE: Microsoft, MSN and CarPoint are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.
About AutoSite and the Automotive Information Center
AutoSite (http://www.autosite.com) is a 30,000 page online automotive buyers guide, utilized by consumers in the market to purchase automobiles. AutoSite offers comprehensive data on new and used vehicles, as well as other information relevant to the automotive ownership cycle. AutoSite is produced by Automotive Information Center (AIC), the automotive industry's leading provider of objective new and used vehicle information for professionals and consumers. Since 1982, AIC has compiled pricing, specifications, standard and optional equipment, and a wide range of supporting data on all cars, vans, light trucks, and sport utility vehicles sold in the United States. AIC is a Thomson Publishing Company, based in Westborough, Mass.
About Auto Trader Online
Auto Trader Online (www.traderonline.com) boasts the largest collection of used cars and trucks for sale on the Internet today, and is also the largest single source of private-party used vehicle classifieds. Ninety-nine percent of the Auto Trader Online inventory is less than three weeks old, making it the largest and freshest database of its kind. Auto Trader Online presents a dealer's contact information within his vehicle listings, taking the earliest opportunity to promote the dealer to the Internet car buyer. The site, begun in February 1996, has grown exponentially in concert with its print parent, Trader Publishing Company. The publisher produces 335 magazines, promoting the Trader Online Web site to over 4 million weekly readers.
AutoVantage is a leading interactive car-buying service available via Web (http://www.autovantage.com), America Online ("AOL-AutoVantage" car-buying service keyword: AV), and via telephone (800-AutoVantage). AutoVantage offers consumers a free, no-hassle new-car buying service as well as new-car reviews, pricing, financing, leasing and insurance. AutoVantage also operates a membership-based automotive service, described by Business Week as the chief competitor to AAA. AutoVantage is part of the Alliance Marketing division of Cendant Corporation.
Cars.com is a division of Chicago-based Classified Ventures, L.L.C., which is funded by eight leading media companies -- Central Newspapers, Inc., Gannett Company, Inc., Knight Ridder, The McClatchy Company, the New York Times Company, The Times Mirror Company, Tribune Company and the Washington Post Company. It provides national and locally branded online service to e-commerce opportunities in the classified advertising marketplace that build upon the capabilities and local expertise of its national affiliate network. Classified Ventures currently operates the national Apartments.com Web site (www.Apartments.com), the national cars.com Web site (www.cars.com), the national NewHomeNetwork.com Web site (www.NewHomeNetwork.com), the local HomeHunter.com Web site (www.HomeHunter.com), and the recently acquired Auction Universe (www.auctionuniverse.com) online auction Web site. For more information on Classified Ventures, visit www.classifiedventures.com.
About The Cobalt Group
Founded in 1995, The Cobalt Group (www.cobaltgroup.com) is the nation's largest provider of Web sites to automotive dealerships. Its Internet marketing system, allowing dealers to integrate the Web site into both traditional and new media advertising, has been endorsed by ten automotive manufacturers and adopted by over 6,500 dealers. Cobalt also owns DealerNet (www.dealernet.com), one of the best-known auto destination sites on the Web. The company recently received a $29 million private equity investment from Warburg, Pincus Equity Partners, L.P.
About Kelley Blue Book
Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) is the nation's number one automotive Web site, generating over 12 million free pricing reports per month, as consumers receive new car pricing, used car retail values and trade-in values for their own cars. Since 1926, the company has answered the question, "What's the Blue Book value of my car?" Kelley Blue Book distributes its automotive information through books, software, and, since 1995, the Internet. The Web site also directs consumers to the auto manufacturers and to new car dealers to buy vehicles.
About MSN CarPoint and Microsoft
MSN CarPoint is a comprehensive automotive Web site that offers consumers complete car-buying and ownership information. It is part of the MSN network of Internet services. Launched in July 1996, MSN CarPoint gives consumers fast, convenient access to detailed specifications, reviews from leading automotive journalists, detailed pricing information, interactive decision-making tools, buying services for new and used cars, tools to simplify car maintenance and repair, and financing and insurance information. The site's free new-car buying service allows consumers to get a competitive price -- without haggling or hassles -- from the MSN CarPoint nationwide network of affiliated dealers (connect-time charges may apply).
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.
About Reynolds and Reynolds
Reynolds and Reynolds, headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, is a leading provider of integrated information management systems and related value-added services to automotive and general business markets. The company has reported revenues of over $1.53 billion for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 1998. For more information on Reynolds and Reynolds, visit the company's World Wide Web site on http://www.reyrey.com, or call The Reynolds and Reynolds Information Hot line at 888-4REYREY.
Stoneage.com was started in 1996 for the sole purpose of making the car buying process more efficient for both the consumer and the car dealer. Today we have become one of the top 6 online car buying services providing consumers a complete array of services including: Free no hassle purchase requests to over 1000 of this country's best dealers, a database of over 300,000 used cars, & pricing information for all new and used cars. Stoneage.com also provides an entire auto section of ancillary services including: Auto Insurance, after market warranties, vehicle inspections, financing & an Oil change reminder system. Stoneage.com is the civilized way to buy or sell your next car!
SOURCE: Microsoft Corp.