Autobytel.com (Nasdaq: ABTL) on Friday officially launched the online auto auction system that has been driving shares up all week.
Competitor Autoweb.com (Nasdaq: AWEB) also unveiled its "next generation Website" including a used auto auction channel on Wednesday. The two companies have been neck in neck since March, when AutoWeb went public four days before Autobytel did.
Autobytel shares closed at 19 1/2 Thursday, after rising from around 12 at the start of the week. Autoweb shares closed at 12 3/4 Thursday, rising from under 10 at the week's start. Both compete with other online car sellers such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and CarsDirect, which is backed by Idealab and Goldman Sachs, as well as car manufacturers.
The Autobytel.com Auction includes new and used vehicle listings by both dealers and consumers, as well as classic car listings and parts and accessories component to be hosted by the FairMarket Auction Network. The program allows dealers private sellers and buyers to transact vehicle and part purchases in a live bidding environment.
Autobytel.com's agreement with FairMarket.com's Auction Network, which reaches 73.3 percent of all Internet users through alliances with MSN, Lycos and Excite, among others, will give Autobytel.com access to the $113 billion parts and accessories market.
While Autobytel's service is national, AutoWeb's is only fully operational in California, with rollout to additional markets during the fourth quarter.