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AOL Spiffs Up Autos Channel

America Online launched a spiffed up Autos Channel with new emphasis on the local nature of car sales and an easier interface, plus content from three well-known online automotive information sites -- Consumer Reports, Edmunds.com and Autofusion.

Dulles, Va.-based AOL, a unit of AOL Time-Warner , said the revamped channel also includes more local resources for visitors looking to research and buy cars or trucks, and will be available on the proprietary flagship service as well as Netscape, CompuServe and AOL.com.

The channel includes features such as a Local Resources center on most pages with direct links to local dealers; a local dealer locator; local deals offered exclusively for AOL members; a Compare and Decide tool that allows visitors to compare different models of new and used cars; a decision guide that leads customers through a series of questions that will create a list of ideal cars; a new Sell Your Car section in conjunction with AutoTrader.com; and Talk About Cars, a communication section for car enthusiasts with content from various auto sites, message boards and chats.

"...members can (now) turn to the Autos Channel to get accurate information on the true cost of cars, learn about the options they want, and read reviews of new and used cars, all before they go to any dealership," Jonathan Sacks, president of AOL.

The channel also now includes a monthly Autos Newsletter that includes recall notices, and rich media showcases, including 3-D views and streaming video.

Through an agreement with Autofusion, a provider of products and services for automotive e-commerce, the Autos Channel now offers Build-A-Car, which will allow AOL members to build, research, compare, save and retrieve information on individual cars.

An expanded Buying Basics section now offers content from Consumer Reports, including top picks, feature articles, warranty comparisons, advice on safety features and information on car electronics.

And there's new car book value section featuring content from Edmunds.com, including tools, that provide new and used vehicle buyers and sellers the current average transaction price for a vehicle in a particular market. Members can also access Edmunds.com's True Market Value Finance Rate Estimator that provides consumers with personalized automotive direct lending finance rates based on the area in which they live.

Financial arrangements with the content providers were not disclosed.