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Where the Rubber Meets the Autobahn

Automotive e-commerce company Autobytel.com signed a deal in which German tire maker and auto parts company Continental AG will make an equity investment in Autobytel Europe and Autobytel Sweden.

Published reports pegged the value of the deal at about $15 million and said Continental will take 20 to 25 percent equity stakes in Autobytel operations in Sweden, Germany and Belgium.

Continental said it expects to enter into a development contract for a special tire module on all Autobytel sites worldwide, in addition to becoming the lead partner in the formation of Autobytel Germany.

The consumer-oriented e-commerce tire modules on the various Web sites will also be open to other tire brands, Continental said, and revenues will be shared.

Continental General Tire, makers of Continental and General Tire brands in the U.S., is a Continental AG group company.

"Partnering with a leader in the German automotive industry enables Autobytel to extend its leadership position in European automotive e-commerce and provides us with a strong automotive relationship in Germany, Europe's largest car market," said Mark Lorimer, president and CEO of Autobytel.com.

The deal "allows us to integrate our traditional dealer-based distribution channels into our Internet strategies," said Stephan Kessel, president and CEO of Continental AG.

Autobytel's stock was down 53 cents in mid afternoon trading at $2.62. Its 52-week high is $19.50.



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