CarsDirect.com, an online automotive provider, and Reynolds and Reynolds, an information management company for automotive retailing, are launching CarsDirect Connect -- a new buying process that offers consumers more choice in they way they shop for and purchase a vehicle online.

Visitors to the CarsDirect.com website will have the option of conducting the entire auto purchase online with the company's direct service or being matched with a local dealer of their choice via CarsDirect Connect.

Building on the company's direct online buying service, CarsDirect Connect is for consumers who prefer face-to-face dealer interaction throughout the transaction process. After shoppers select their preferred dealer, they are presented with the name and contact information of their dealer representative.

Customers are assured they have engaged best dealers because every CarsDirect Connect dealer is required to meet strict CarsDirect.com quality and performance standards, which are measured monthly through a comprehensive "dealer scorecard."

CarsDirect Connect is being rolled out to major metro markets across the U.S. A version of the service, designed specifically to meet Texas motor vehicle regulations, is also being offered in the state of Texas.

Reynolds and Reynolds will provide technology integration, dealer training and operational support for the new collaborative endeavor.

"We selected Reynolds and Reynolds as our business partner because they have the industry knowledge, sophisticated infrastructure and customer service mindset that dealers and customers will appreciate," says Bob Brisco, CEO, CarsDirect.com.

He says 40% of all vehicle volume in the U.S. is already funneled through Reynolds and Reynolds systems.

"We value the opportunity to work with CarsDirect.com on this pioneering service, since it truly will be qualitatively different from anything on the market - for dealers and for consumers," says Lloyd G. "Buzz" Waterhouse, president and CEO, Reynolds and Reynolds.

The partners say the new direct-to-dealer service gives CarsDirect.com's dealer clients a higher quality leads. CarsDirect Connect will back each qualified dealer lead with a customer profile that includes details like financing preferences and trade-in information.

"We've built the CarsDirect.com brand from the ground up to meet the needs of ready-to-buy consumers, not just shoppers," says Mr. Brisco. Our site is already designed to filter the most qualified leads. Every site element, from upfront pricing to configuring a car to financing, is created for serious shoppers.

CarsDirect.com has already begun introducing CarsDirect Connect in more than 10 major markets.

Online car buying is one of the fastest growing sectors of all transactions completed online.

According to Jupiter Media Metrix forecasts, approximately 8% of all new cars sold in the U.S., or 1.3 million units worth $33 billion, will be retailed on the web by 2004. This is significant growth compared to market share the sector had just 24 months ago.