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The Ward’s e-Dealer 100 is a story about dealers – and their successes.

Much recent media attention is directed at the dot-coms -– specifically third-party sites – and their pending doom.

The resulting message is that on-line automotive retailing is a fantasy.

It's hardly that. There are dealers who are selling cars on line, and are very successful at it.

That fact is the genesis of the Ward’s Dealer Business e-Dealer 100. The ranking is an industry first -– it is the first charting of information about what the dealer community really is doing on line.

The Ward’s e-Dealer 100 ranks dealers based on the number of vehicle sales they initiate using the Internet. hey sell using the Internet. It's a departure of sorts from our Dealer The Dealer 500 and MegaDealer 100 rankings, which are based on sales revenue. We believe, however, that the number of units sold on line is the best snapshot of the dealers’ Internet sales activity.

Every unit represents a transaction, and vehicle transactions are occurring on line in growing numbers.

Maybe it's not at the same rate as some people in the Internet world want you to believe. But as a percentage of total volume, there is definite growth.

Our definition of an Internet sale has evolved. Originally, we were hoping to provide the industry with a narrow definition –- that everything about the sale is done on line except for the paperwork.

We learned that most dealerships, though, define the Internet sale as one in which the contact is initialized on line and the process is handled by a designated Internet staffer at the dealership. The process often includes both phone calls and e-mails -– many dealerships do not see occasional use of the telephone as intruding on the Internet process.

We opted, therefore, for the dealers’ definition -– and judging by the results of the ranking, the dealers know best.

The e-Dealer 100 reveals that more and more people are using the Internet to buy cars. California's Anderson Honda, number one on the 100 list, sold 2,346 vehicles on line last year. That's nearly half of their total volume.

Ken Smith of Dave Smith Motors in Kellogg, ID, says his Internet business is about 20% of his total and expects that could rise to 35%-40% by the end of 2001.

The trend is there, but very few dealers are getting on board, according to industry analyst Mark Rikess.

"Our research shows only 10% of dealers are actually in the game," he says.

That's despite NADA reporting 92% of all dealers have web sites now. But maintaining a web site is not the same as using the Internet as a key part of the sales process.

Ward’s e-Dealer 100 is a list of the dealers who are playing the game hard and playing to win. The Internet will not increase the total number of cars sold to consumers. What's changing is how dealers are interacting with customers to sell those cars.

Manny Souza, Anderson Honda’s Internet manager, says his incremental business –- defined as customers coming from at lease 15 miles away –- increases about 3%-4% each month. Those are customers he is probably taking from a dealer without an active Internet presence.

How are these dealers playing the game. First, the dealer must realize where the customer is -- whether it's the showroom, the dealership's web site, the manufacturer's web site or the third-party referral sites.

A Dohring Co. survey of consumers' car-buying habits says that 52% of American men intend to use the Internet for their next vehicle purchase. That compares to 32% last year. Thirty-eight percent of women, compared to 22% last year, say they'll do the same thing.

Dohring's survey indicates that less people this year are using on-line buying services (20%) compared to last year (42%).

Randy Raja, vice president of e-commerce for AutoNation Inc. says AutoNation uses an array of third-party lead generators.

“There is a place for them. The customers are looking there, and we need to be where customers are,” he says.

AutoNation as a group sold about 69,000 vehicles on line last year.

About half of the dealers on the Ward’s e-Dealer 100 list depend on the third-party sites for 50% or more of their leads while half depend on them for 50% or less. Every dealer on our list gets referrals from third party sites for at least some of their leads.

In contrast, of all the dealers in the U.S., 53% say they use a third-party web site, according to a survey by Automotive Retailing Today.

It's not just about getting those leads, though. As the profiles on the following pages show, it's what the dealer does with the lead that determines the sale. The Internet is a sales tool, not a member of the sales staff.

Each of the top 100 dealers use sophisticated systems for responding to and tracking leads. What matters is what dealership personnel do with that technology.

“It’s the store process that is important,” says Dennis Rushing, Internet manager for McNamara Pontiac/Isuzu in Florida. “You have to leverage the technology you have. We’re a small dealership without all of the resources, but because of our system, we’re successful. It's about constant follow-up and fast response times.”

The dealership sold 488 cars on line last year.

Mr. Rikess reports that dealers able to contact customers three to five times with before they enter the dealership will experience 85% closings among those customers.

Ward’s e-Dealer 100 initiated a combined 61,356 on-line vehicle sales last year.

Vehicle sales don't occur without a franchised dealership's involvement. However, many consumers and the national media are unaware of who actually is selling or who can sell cars on-line. It's dealers.

The complete list is as follows:

1. Anderson Honda, CA, 2,346 units 2. Dave Smith Motors, ID, 2,252 3. Classic Auto, NJ, 1,598 4. Conicelli Autoplex, PA, 1,513 5. Maroone Ford, FL, 1,084 6. Prestige Ford, TX, 1,069 7. Gillman Honda, TX, 1,029 8. Burt Toyota, CO, 1,022 9. Burt’s Araphoe Ford, CO, 988 10. Jim Ellis Auto Dealership, GA, 939 11. Hudson Toyota, NJ, 830 12. Courtesy Ford, NY, 814 13. Maroone Honda, FL, 747 14. Jim Koons - Baltimore Ford, MD, 732 15. Jim Koons - Tyson’s Toyota, VA, 730 Tie Payton Wright Ford, TX, 730 17. Boch Enterprises, MA, 726 18. Jim Koons - Falls Church Ford, VA, 723 19. Jim Koons - Sterling Ford, VA, 719 20. Jim Koons - College Park, MD, 712 21. John Elway Toyota, CO, 675 22. Herb Chambers Honda/Saab/Infiniti, MA, 672 23. Tyson Chevy, VA, 669 24. Texan Ford, TX, 641 25. Team Ford, GA, 639 26. Jim Koons – White Marsh, MD, 638 27. Burt Chevrolet, CO, 634 28. Champion Pontiac/GMC, TX, 630 29. Bankston Ford, TX, 617 Tie Champion Toyota, TX, 617 Tie Sutherlin Nissan, GA, 617 32. Northpoint Chevrolet/Mitsubishi, GA, 603 33. Downers Grove Dodge, IL, 566 34. Champion Chevrolet, TX, 564 35. Quality Toyota, CA, 560 36. Charlie Thomas Ford, TX, 558 37. Magic Ford, CA, 553 38. Texan LincolnMercury/Isuzu, TX, 549 39. Tom Bush Mazda/VW/BMW, FL, 548 40. Autowest Honda Fremont, CA, 542 41. Mike Hall Chevrolet, TX, 537 42. Bob Baker Volkswagon/Chrysler, CA, 531 43. Seminole Ford, FL, 530 44. Jim Koons – Annapolis, MD, 517 45. Bowen Scarff Ford, WA, 516 46. Libertyville Toyota, IL, 505 47. Shamrock Ford, CA, 501 48. South Bay Ford, CA, 500 49. Steve Oliver Dodge, KS, 497 50. Brown & Brown Chevrolet, AZ, 495 51. McNamara Pontiac/Chevrolet, FL, 488 52. Crevier BMW, CA, 483 53. Desert Toyota of Las Vegas, NV, 478 54. AutoWay Toyota, FL, 475 Tie Champion Ford, TX, 475 56. Toyota of Cerritos, CA, 473 57. Stone Mountain Toyota, GA, 470 58. Lew Webb’s Irvine Toyota, CA, 463 59. Brown & Brown Nissan, AZ, 454 60. Maroone Toyota, FL, 448 61. Burt’s Castle Motors, CO, 446 62. John Elway Honda, CO, 442 63. Burt Subaru, CO, 432 64. Anderson Chevrolet, CA, 427 Tie Herb Chambers BMW, MA, 427 66. Tuttle-Click, CA, 417 67. Courtesy Chevrolet, CA, 412 68. Steakley Chevrolet, TX, 411 69. Bankston Nissan, TX, 407 Tie Smythe European, CA, 407 71. Fred Haas Toyota, TX, 404 72. World Ford, GA, 402 73. Maroone Ford, FL, 400 74. Maroone Chevrolet, FL, 398 75. Toyota Carlsbad, CA, 397 76. Jim Koons Chrysler, VA, 392 77. BlueBonnet Motors, TX, 385 78. Towne Automotive Group, NY, 384 79. Tuttle-Click Ford, CA, 383 80. Classic Automotive, TX, 382 Tie Costa Mesa Honda, CA, 382 82. Hayward Toyota, CA, 377 83. Maroone Chevrolet of Miami, FL, 374 84. AutoNation Dodge, TX, 370 85. Peyton Cramer Ford, CA, 368 86. Pitre Buick/Pontiac/GMC, AZ, 367 87. Lew Webb’s Irvine Nissan, CA, 364 88. Sutherlin Honda, GA, 362 89. Bob Baker Ford, CA, 360 Tie Don Chalmers Ford, NM, 360 Tie Jim Koons - Falls Church Dodge, VA, 360 Tie Lew Webb Toyota, CA, 360 93. Five Star Ford, AZ, 358 94. Classic Chevrolet, TX, 356 95. Mercede-Benz of South Bay, CA, 355 96. Anderson Chevrolet, CA, 351 Tie House of Imports, CA, 351 98. Desert Dodge, NV, 350 99. Autowest Honda Roseville, CA, 349 Tie Gaudin Ford, NV, 349