Automakers Market Latest Model on the 'Infobahn.'(World Wide Web Pages and Car Marketing)

Article excerpt

Car buyers can cruise the Internet to check out option packages and financing. They can even sit in virtual driver's seats. Soon they may be able to `haggle' on-line with dealers across the country.

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One of the nice things about life in the electronic age is that car buyers can use their computers to shop for the latest models -- eliminating the need to endure the importunings of high-pressure salespeople.

Several manufacturers, for example, have established World Wide Web sites on the Internet for just this purpose, making it easy for consumers to review product literature, option packages, leasing deals and financing. Buyers even can view three-dimensional images of specific cars or trucks. Besides the auto-makers, news syndicates such as the Tribune Media Services and publications including Road & Track have Web sites featuring automotive articles and car reviews.

One day soon, consumers may be able to take the next logical step and actually purchase vehicles with their computers. The logistics have yet to be worked out, but there is talk of establishing buying networks that would allow shoppers to "haggle" with dealers around the country -- not just the handful in a particular neighborhood. By increasing the competition for buyers, the theory goes, dealers would be forced to offer much better bargains than they do today.

As for now, consider Honda's Web site:http://www.honda.com. Here car buyers can enjoy a 360-degree view of the Odyssey Minivan's interior -- including the dash, passenger compartment and rear storage area. They can "zoom-in" on specific areas and "paint" cars in hues available for given models. Honda throws in a recap of the company's Indy Car racing program, but serious consumers will have more use for items like the "Disclosing the Disclaimer" subsection, which guides them through the too-often kafkaesque car-buying process. …

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