DealerTrack, founded to provide an online credit application network for dealers and their customers, has become much more 10 years and 16 business acquisitions later.

“We are expanding our footprint,” says CEO Mark O'Neil, describing how the firm is positioning itself as an end-to-end technology provider.

DealerTrack still links dealership customers with online lenders. But it now also helps consumers research and compare cars, assists dealers in inventory management, calculates trade appraisals, structures deals and expedites delivery-related paperwork.

“The theme of where we are going is an integrated, single Internet portal,” says Raj Sundaram, DealerTrack's senior vice president.

That aims to aid consumers either at or away from dealerships, he says. “Online to us doesn't mean outside the store. Some dealers are setting up screens and kiosks for customers. U.S. dealers are among the most innovative.”

The technology advancements potentially move dealers towards a consultative role, O'Neil says.

“Some dealership groups are comfortable with letting the customer be in control and have the salesperson as a consultant,” he says. “Other dealers prefer a more traditional sales role.”.