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Top News Unveils Finance Decisioning Engine, Other Enhancements

April 30, 2001, a direct online automotive provider, on April 30 unveiled Web site enhancements including a finance decisioning engine, simplified customer navigation and faster page loading times.

According to company officials, the enhancements combine to significantly streamline the online car buying experience for the growing number of U.S. consumers who buy cars via the Internet.

Mary Sikes, vice president of and CEO of its financial unit, CD1 Financial, told F&I the finance decisioning engine provides customers with simultaneous access to's premier lending partners and allows for instant financing approval by these financial


"I think the really unique part is that the customer sees the actual choices that they have in approved finance, and can choose the lender that they wish to," Sikes told F&I.

Three financial institutions -- Bank One, Chase, and WFS -- have already aligned themselves with CarsDirect; they'll be joined shortly by AmeriCredit and Wells Fargo, according to Sikes.

"We've been doing finance for about a year, and this is just adding a lot of efficiency to what we've already been doing," Sikes said. "Our dealer partners are very much on board with what we're doing, and the way they seem to look at it is that the sales they're getting through us are incremental sales."

"As the pioneer in direct online car buying, is leveraging our history and our

leadership position within the industry to upgrade our Web site to meet our customers' evolving needs and expectations," said Bob Brisco, CEO of "While other companies still are in the process of building their online car buying platforms, we are tapping our unsurpassed experience and invaluable consumer feedback to make the online car buying process that much faster, easier and more convenient, with features -- like our finance decisioning engine -- that can't be found anywhere else."

Instant Pre-Approval of Best Financing Options

The new finance decisioning engine enables consumers to customize their loan or lease to get the lowest monthly payment, the best rate or lowest cash down payment -- whichever is most advantageous to the buyer's financial situation, according to Sikes.

"Very often, if the OEMs are running 2.9 or 3.9 percent financing, we're going to do everything we can to help the customer get that good deal as well. If they qualify for 2.9 or 3.9, we'll call the dealer and arrange for them to get that financing through the F&I office at the dealership. So there are a lot of wins here for everybody," Sikes said.

"These customers come in the door pre-approved and ready to buy," Sikes told F&I. "They're doing their paperwork right there at the dealer, signing their loan docs and signing their paperwork for the car. The ultimate thing here is the choice for the customer. They can still buy a car through us with cash, or using a credit union, or doing dealer financing.

"We have a whole group at CarsDirect, called our Dealer Network Group, that is run by Mark Miller," Sikes said. "We have field staff that are out talking to our dealers every day, so they're aware of the new things that we do on the site, and they're available to communicate with our dealers any time they need to."

Four of the six major dealer groups are aligned with CarsDirect, including United/Penske, Asbury, Hendrick, and Sonic.

Decisioning Engine Based on LiquidCredit

To develop the technology platform for the multi-lender loan and lease decisioning system, teamed up with Fair, Isaac, a global provider of customer analytics and

decision technology.'s decisioning engine is based on Fair, Isaac's LiquidCredit(TM) offering, which

delivers a high level of technology integration

between each lender and According to Sikes, the technology enables to simplify and accelerate the loan or lease application and evaluation process.

After selecting the desired vehicle,'s customers fill out an online credit application. uses the

decisioning engine to qualify the customer within seconds and determine matching financing programs based on credit profile, geography, requested terms and the car desired. Once the most attractive program is selected, final approval can be secured in as little as 20 seconds, according to Sikes.


Los Angeles-based is a multi-brand online car buying service, providing new

automobiles and related products and services, such as loan and lease financing and in-demand aftermarket products including extended warranties.

A pioneer of the direct online car buying model, offers upfront pricing to consumers, who can research, price, order, purchase, insure and finance a vehicle online via a Web site that offers product information for nearly every make, model and style of new automobile available in the United States today.

Shoppers can also simultaneously compare the specifications of competing vehicles.

In February 2001, acquired, bringing four of the nation's largest automotive retailers -- UnitedAuto Group/Penske Automotive, Asbury Automotive, Hendrick Automotive Group, and Sonic Automotive -- under one online brand and increasing the number of priority dealers in's network to 3,000. also became the exclusive preferred partner for, enhancing the online car buying experience for Amazon's 29 million customers. has received awards and honors from Forbes Magazine, PC Computing, PC World, Time Digital,

Yahoo! Internet Life and e-commerce authority, Gomez.

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