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Auto E-Commerce Industry Sets Communication Standard

The auto e-commerce industry showed a sign of unity yesterdy, as a group of 13 leading automotive and e-commerce companies announced final agreement on a new electronic sales lead standard that will streamline the buying and selling of vehicles on the Internet. The Auto Lead Data Format (referred to as ADF) is an open XML-based standard for communicating consumer e-mail and purchase requests to automotive dealerships. The common format will enable faster and more reliable processing and management of Internet leads no matter where the message originates.

The Cobalt Group, a Seattle-based provider of Internet-based B2B services to the auto industry, sponsored the technical editing of the standard. According to its Vice President of Product Development Ron Harter, ADF is a milestone in automotive e-commerce because it recognizes the interdependence of all companies in the automotive e-commerce marketplace. Other members of the Standard's group include: AutoNation, Inc., AutoTrader.com, Autoweb.com, Cars.com, Digital Motorworks, Inc., Ford Motor Company, Kelley Blue Book, Priceline.com Auto Services, LLC, Trilogy Software, StoneAge.com, TraderOnline.com, and Yahoo! Autos.

According to Chris Denove, director of consulting operations for J.D. Power and Associates, research shows that successful Internet managers at dealerships are currently inundated with online leads, and dealing with all of the different systems used by the various services is an obstacle to properly responding to Internet customers. "Solutions that unify these systems will enable dealers to focus on higher-value customer service and solutions rather than wrestling with the technical difficulties created by inconsistent data formats," says Denove.

Implementation timetables for the new ADF standard will be up to individual members of the standards group. Participants have agreed to jointly update and maintain the specification as appropriate in the future. The final version of the ADF standard can be found at: www.cobaltgroup.com/adf.