Tour to Put E-Shoppers in Driver's Seat

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Edmunds.com, the 6-year-old auto information and shopping site, this summer will introduce EdmundsLIVE, a seven-city tour that will allow consumers to shop and test drive 50 car models in a single location.


"Hopefully it will greatly enhance our visibility and add functionality to the site for users," said Peter Steinlauf, president/CEO of Edmunds.com, Santa Monica, CA.


Edmunds expects to attract the attention of the estimated 1.5 million unique visitors who access the site each month. These visitors will be asked to register beforehand to gain entry to the tour. Edmunds.com will immediately send a confirmation via e-mail.


Among the selected cars will be the latest models from Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Volkswagen, Audi, Ford, Lincoln, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Chrysler's Dodge and Jeep brands, and General Motors' Cadillac and Chevrolet.


"The vehicles were selected by a combination of our Edmunds.com visitors as well as Edmunds editors," said Britt Johansson, Edmunds' director of consumer events. She stressed that automakers had no say in the selection.


The EdmundsLIVE tour kicks off July 7 in Atlanta, speeding its way through Miami, Washington, Chicago, Englishtown, NJ, and San Francisco, before winding up in Los Angeles the last week of September.


"These cities represent the highest concentration of Edmunds.com consumers," Johansson said. "We'd targeted a wider range of cities. However, based on venue availability, we settled on these for the summer of 2000."


Each event, she said, requires 1 million square feet -- or the equivalent of 52 football fields -- to test cars under all kinds of road conditions.


The marketer expects about 65,000 consumers to attend the events. In return for a $15 entry fee and a free Edmunds.com T-shirt, visitors can compare and test drive near-luxury sedans, minivans and sport utility vehicles. Consumers can interact with Edmunds executives to discuss options such as online or off-line purchasing and buying or leasing. An area designated as Cyber Central will offer Internet access and snacks.


More importantly, consumers will be referred to Edmunds' partners such as online auto seller Autobytel.com and loan provider PeopleFirst.com. Edmunds gets a referral fee for directing online or off-line traffic toward its partners.


According to a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey, 55 percent of Americans who purchase a car this year will go online at some stage in that process. This figure is slated to rise to 80 percent by 2003.


In March, Edmunds struck non-exclusive partnership deals with Autobytel.com, carOrder.com, DriveOff.com, Greenlight.com and AutoNationDirect.com. Consumers can compare features and offerings on each of the partners' sites. It also has a similar deal with General Motors' GM BuyPower.
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