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Dealers Stay in the Driver's Seat on the Internet

March 18, 2002

Last month, Trisha McGuire bought her second car online. "I put in my order for exactly what I wanted, and the next day we were picking the

car up from the dealer. I have kids and I work full time, so for things to be so convenient was great," she says.

Buyers like McGuire boosted the number of cars bought online from a mere 0.01 percent of the market in 1999 to an estimated 6 or 7 percent in 2001. But those numbers don't tell the whole story, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

While more people are buying online, they're buying from fewer outlets, and they're conducting more of each actual purchase in traditional dealer showrooms, the Monitor reports.

The earlier number reflects only sales completed online. Now industry experts count all

sales for which the initial request occurred online, even at dealer Web sites.

Dealers say the current system works for consumers. Dealers have another advantage: They have the cars. "Consumers will always want to kick the tires, sit in the leather, and look at the paint before they buy the car," said David Champion, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

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