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Priceline.com Expands Coverage to Cars, Trucks

Stamford, CT-based Priceline.com, which allows consumers to name their price for airline tickets, is expanding into the world of auto sales.

The company said buyers can name their own best price. If the buyer's price is accepted, Priceline e-mails the customer within one business day with a commitment from a dealer who has agreed, in writing, to the customer's price. The service launches in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state metropolitan area.

"Priceline.com is radically different from Auto-by-Tel and Microsoft CarPoint," said Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, MD research firm specializing in electronic media. "Priceline turns the car-buying process upside down. It takes advantage of the Web's capabilities by letting the buyer name the price and inviting dealers to take it or leave it."

Priceline said it does not reveal the buyer's name, phone number or gender to dealers. The service costs nothing unless a dealer agrees to the customer's price in writing.

Priceline.com is introducing its new car buying service just 90 days after launching its first service for airline tickets. "Consumers recognize priceline.com as the Internet brand that means name your price," said Jay Walker, founder and chairman of priceline.com. "Millions of consumers have responded to our ads featuring celebrity spokesman William Shatner who also serves as the voice of Priceline for new cars." The company said it will continue to introduce new "name-your-own-price" services.

Consumers visit priceline.com to fill out a Priceline Vehicle Request specifying the exact make and model of the vehicle they want to purchase (including colors and options). They also state the price they are ready to pay, the date the car must be available and how far they are willing to travel to pick up their new car from a factory-authorized dealer.

Priceline.com's Web site displays both the manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) and the dealer invoice price for vehicles. If a request is accepted and a customer does not pick up a vehicle they have committed to buy, there is a good-faith cancellation fee of $200.

Dealers can submit counter-offers. Once a dealer agrees to the customer's price, the buyer receives an e-mail purchase confirmation from priceline.com confirming the price, make, model, options and vehicle identification number.

After the sale is complete, the customer pays $25 for the Priceline service charged to their credit card. The dealer pays priceline.com $75. Trade-ins are handled separately between the buyer and the dealer.