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Autobytel roars on first trading day

After the car-buying site pushed up its intitial offering price, shares more than double as Wall Street piles on.

Pushing the pedal to the floor, Autobytel raced out of the gate by more than doubling in its first day of trading.

The company, which runs an Internet site for buying new and used cars, surged by more than 117 percent before closing 75 percent higher, up 17.25 points at 40.25.

Earlier today, making the best of a favorable market,, upped the ante by pricing its initial public offering at 23 per share, higher than its last pricing range.

Just a few days ago, after watching the successful IPO of rival site, raised its price range from 16 to 18 per share to 20 to 22 per share. The company sold 4.5 million shares to raise about $103.5 million.

"I don't think [raising the IPO price] is anything specific to auto Internet companies," said Ken Fleming, a research analyst at Renaissance Capital's IPO Fund. "It is because of the general Internet IPO craze."

Internet firms nearly across the board have inched, and in some cases pushed, their IPO price ranges higher before their first day of trading. eBay, iVillage, and Cheap Tickets are among those that raised their prices and benefited from the continued demand for their shares.

"Even if Autoweb's successful IPO hadn't been there, Autobytel would have still raised its range," said Fleming.

Shares of Autoweb skyrocketed on Tuesday when the Santa Clara, California-based company began its first day of trading. The stock surged 185.71 percent to close at 40. Autoweb priced at 14 per share.

Autobytel's site allows consumers get information on cars and small trucks, and also buy them without leaving home. While the service is free to consumers, Autobytel charges auto dealerships who pay to be part of its listing service.

Autobytel trades under the symbol "ABTL" on the Nasdaq Stock Market. BT Alex Brown was the lead manager handling the offering, with assistance from Lehman Brothers and PaineWebber.