Los Angeles-based CarsDirect.com has launched a comprehensive research center for customers on its Web site.

The new research capability will help CarsDirect.com customers make more-informed car buying decisions by offering easy access to essential pricing information, enhanced vehicle comparison tools and in-depth automotive reviews from Automobile Magazine and NewCarTestDrive.com.

During a phased rollout, CarsDirect.com will expand its research offerings to include "cost of ownership" data; residual values; vehicle safety information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); and expanded car reviews. The CarsDirect.com home page has been re-designed to reflect the Web site's expanded research capability.

"In planning the new research center, we looked at the market to identify which research tools really brought value to the car buyer -- which tools worked and which tools didn't," says Bob Brisco, CEO of CarsDirect.com. "Our customers wanted easy access to quantitative pricing information, valuable comparison tools and unbiased reviews to help them decide which car to buy and at what price."

CarsDirect.com now draws more than two million unique visitors per month.

In building its new research center, CarsDirect.com is responding both to customer requests and industry research. According to J.D. Power and Associates, 54% of car buyers used the Web for purchase-related research in 2000.

The first phase of the new research center now is functional and includes a full menu of services geared toward helping consumers make an informed car buying decision.

CarsDirect.com will continue to upgrade its research center in the second phase of implementation scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2001. The research center will provide "cost of ownership" projections to provide customers with a realistic indicator of how much a certain vehicle will cost to own and maintain over five years.

In Phase Two, CarsDirect.com also will employ tools that will help customers determine leasing residual values, or what the market predicts a vehicle will be worth at the close of a lease. Content on the research center also will expand to include vehicle safety information and ratings from the NHTSA and more in-depth professional reviews from respected automotive industry sources.