It might be no surprise that nearly half (48) of the leading Internet dealers are from California, Texas and Florida.

Those three states generate the most car sales. So with volume alone, dealers there have an inherent advantage.

Still, not all of the dealerships in a strong market are able to increase sales using the Internet. A Southern California dealer claims that one of his Internet sales people averages more monthly online sales than an entire dealership of the same brand located four miles away.

Other areas are highly competitive, such as the Phoenix, AZ, market. The 10 dealerships there on this year's Ward's e-Dealer 100 ranking (four part of the Earnhardt Auto Centers) sold 16,800 vehicles using the Internet.

While volume often drives Internet sales, there are market areas that tend to be strong online because a dealer there begins capturing sales using the Internet. As a result, other dealers get on board and beef up their web initiatives.

For example, the area that encompasses northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. is strong because dealers there display an unusual genius for creating web sales.

Since the first Ward's e-Dealer 100 ranking in 2001, the Koons Automotive Group held the title of being the top private Internet dealer group. This year, it was surpassed by the Hendrick Automotive Group (which has three times as many dealerships). Hendrick tallied more than 20,000 online sales in 2005, almost 6,000 more than in 2004.

As a result of Koons' online prominence, other groups, including the Sheehy Auto Stores, the Rosenthal Automotive Group, the Brown Automtotive Group and the Pomoco Group have in recent years developed strong Internet operations to keep competitive.

The Herb Chambers Companies in the Massachusetts market, likewise has influenced other dealerships there. Chambers has been a mainstay on the Ward's ranking from the start. In Danvers, MA, the Ira Group, owned by Group 1 Automotive, has come on strong in recent years with its Toyota store, placing 30th this year with 1,639 sales.

Then there is Dave Smith Motors, in the small town of Kellogg, ID. That online juggernaut has held the top spot on the Ward's ranking since its second year and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The dealership pulls sales from surrounding states, and according to some Dodge representatives, is the No. 3 Dodge seller in California — without having a dealership there!