Sunday, July 20, 2003

More used cars being sold online



The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas - Four years ago, Ken Topham viewed eBay as an online garage sale where hobbyists bid on Pez dispensers and eight-track players. The longtime car salesman never imagined making a living off the Internet auction site.

"If you'd said, 'Sell a used car on the Internet,' I'd say you couldn't do it," said Topham, a sales manager at Magic Auto Group in Arlington, about 20 miles west of Dallas.

But when people started selling cars on eBay, he tried it. Since October 1999, Magic Auto Group has sold more than 5,000 vehicles on eBay.

In New York, Galaxy Auto Mall started offering vehicles on eBay about two years ago. Now, eBay accounts for 75 percent of business.

Nationally, online sales of used cars topped 500,000 in May and could hit 1 million a month by the end of the year, industry analyst Art Spinella said. That would make the Internet responsible for one-quarter to one-third of all used-car sales.

"It's in the early stages, so growth is dramatic," said Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore.

EBay Motors, launched in late 1998, is the No. 1 online auto site, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. But it's facing increasing competition from companies such as Autotrader.com, owned by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc.

Topham's dealership transports cars and trucks to buyers throughout the United States for an additional cost. Some, such as Mike Moran, of Livingston, Tenn., fly to Dallas-Fort Worth and drive their purchases home.

"I feel I got a fantastic deal," said Moran, who paid $8,950 for a teal 1995 Chevrolet Silverado.

EBay is also a resource for vehicle parts and accessories. The San Jose, Calif.-based company said its automotive sales topped $3 billion on eBay in 2002, double its 2001 volume.



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