Internet initiative “gives customers reasonable expectations about vehicle availability and pricing.”

Toyota dealer groups in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. are now part of a company Internet retailing pilot program, enables customers to search an area's pooled inventory; check the availability of new and used vehicles; obtain pricing information, print out incentive coupons, and initiate a purchase or lease transaction with a participating local dealer.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc.' s program was first designed in partnership with the Toyota Dealers Association in western Washington state and launched in the Seattle-Tacoma region a year ago. Kansas City and St. Louis Toyota dealers joined the pilot program last month.

Customers in the pilot markets are able to access a locally customized version of the site by entering their zip code. A total of 88 dealers in seven metropolitan markets are now participating. If continues to succeed in diverse markets, plans are to roll it out nationally this summer.

The new Web site complements, which helps car shoppers choose a Toyota vehicle. Unique features include an extensive purchase guide, which explains in detail each step of the sales or lease transaction, includes price negotiation, and is customized to comply with state and local regulations.

"Car buyers are already using the Internet to research their purchase decisions," says Keith St. Clair, manager of Toyota Motor Sales national business to consumer e-commerce.

He adds, "Unlike other car buying web sites, gives customers reasonable expectations about vehicle availability and pricing and helps prepare them for their transaction with the dealer."