A Missouri mom made Internet history by becoming the 10 millionth customer of online car-buying lead generator, Auto-bytel Inc.

Autobytel celebrated its one-millionth customer in December 1997 after 28 months live on the Web. In less than twice that much time the company has grown that number ten-fold.

Says Autobytel President and CEO Jeffrey Schwartz, “To put this achievement into perspective, Autobytel's 10 million consumers represent a virtual nation of people redefining the way cars are bought and sold.”

It's emblematic that Autobytel's 10 millionth customer hails from Missouri, one of the most Internet-savvy regions in the nation.

J.D. Power and Associates' recent 2001 New Autoshopper.com study found the Kansas City region as having the seventh-highest rate of automotive internet users in the nation-ahead of New York and Atlanta, among other major urban areas.

An April 2001 Nielsen/NetRatings report, meanwhile, named Kansas City and St. Louis among the top-12 “most wired” U.S. cities-weighing in ahead of both Los Angeles and New York.

Beth Richardson, who lives near St. Joseph, MO, became the 10 millionth customer when she submitted a purchase request to www.autobytel.com for a 2002 Hyundai Accent.

The history-making vehicle college present from Beth and her husband Larry for their son Tim was delivered to the Richardsons' doorstep by St. Joseph's Car City Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Hyundai, one of the first Auto-bytel Accredited Dealers in the Midwest.

Autobytel, which serves about 6,700 subscribing dealers, is memorializing the event by donating a computer lab equipped with 30 computers to one of St. Joseph's new community-based Learning Resource Centers.

The lab will serve students at Neely Elementary School, as well as local residents after school hours. The company consulted School District COO Rick Hartigan in selecting Neely Elementary, which has a large underprivileged student base.

“It's hard to think of a more fitting site for our 10 millionth customer than the St. Joseph area, home of another communications revolution, The Pony Express,” says Schwartz.