Auto dealers are facing downward profit margin pressures on new-and used-car sales due to e-business strategies for Internet shopping, according to Gartner Group Inc.

Ironically, 70% of auto dealer revenue is from maintenance and repair services to consumers, not vehicle sales, according to Gartner, an information technology consulting firm.

Gartner's customer relationship management advice to dealers is to shift their business focus to retaining and extending customer relationships. Dealerships that do not take this approach will be out of business by 2004, according to Gartner.

"Brands such as Mercedes and Land Rover do an excellent job of creating a vision of the total life of the car ownership for consumers," says Rob DeSisto, Gartner vice president and research director.

He adds, "Pricing new cars is only the first step in car investments, and dealers have to begin taking a longer view. The role of dealers must become more relationship-focused if they are to survive. Showing brochures and sales promotions on the web is not going to cut it with the consumers in the new economy."

Gartner offers dealers the following advice in capturing that new consumer over the life of a car:

* Participate in collaborative dealer councils with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for defining the complete consumer experience.

* Demand technical support from OEMs for Internet capabilities. Such CRM strategies are not practical for individual dealers to deploy on their own.

* Differentiate after-sale value-added services, such as roadside assistance programs, and free routine maintenance during warranty periods

* Embrace the Internet for customer communication. Offer a virtual garage, schedule appointments on-line, e-notify customers for service check-ups and inspections, and create targeted e-mail campaigns to renew car leases.

Here's a list of the hot 50 vehicle models which web-savvy consumers were investigating during the month of July 2000: - ranked by 2000 / 2001 New Car Pricing Reports generated at Kelley Blue Book's website, www.kbb.com:

1. Honda Accord

2. Ford Pickups (F Series)

3. Chevrolet/GMC Pickups (Silverado & Sierra)

4. Honda Civic

5. Ford Explorer

6. BMW3 Series

7. Chevrolet / GMCTahoe / Yukon

8. Toyota Camry

9. Volkswagen Jetta

10. Volkswagen Passat

11. Ford Mustang

12. Toyota Corolla

13. Toyota 4Runner

14. Nissan Maxima

15. Chrysler/Plymouth/DodgeVoyager/Caravan

16. Nissan Xterra

17. Dodge Ram Pickups

18. Honda Odyssey

19. Chevrolet/GMC Blazer/Jimmy

20. Toyota Tacoma

21. Ford Focus

22. Chrysler PT Cruiser

23. Ford Expedition

24. Ford Ranger

25. Mitsubishi Eclipse

26. Honda CR-V

27. BMW5 Series

28. Jeep Grand Cherokee

29. Nissan Pathfinder

30. Volvo 70 Series

31. Dodge Durango

32. Ford Windstar

33. Dodge Dakota Pickups

34. Ford Taurus

35. Ford Escape

36. Toyota Tundra

37. Nissan Frontier

38. Chevrolet/GMC S10/Sonoma

39. Toyota Avalon

40. Audi A4

41. Saturn S Series

42. Nissan Sentra

43. Toyota Sienna

44. Volkswagen New Beetle

45. Acura Integra

46. Mercedes-Benz E-Class

47. Jeep Cherokee

48. Lexus IS 300

49. Pontiac Grand Prix

50. Chevrolet Corvette

51. Chevrolet Corvette: Made the list