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Internet

British auto site to offer Net car sales

London-based OneSwoop.com plans to launch a Web site early next year that will allow European consumers to order cars directly over the Web.

London-based OneSwoop.com plans to launch a Web site early next year that will allow European consumers to order cars directly over the Web.

The company will announce today that it will launch using technology developed by Calico Commerce, and with the help of consulting giant Andersen Consulting. OneSwoop.com concluded agreements with Calico and Andersen in September, and the company will begin selling cars online in January, according to Calico president and chief executive Alan Naumann.

"They're going to start off the new millennium with a bang," Naumann said.

With Internet usage growing worldwide, e-commerce is becoming an increasingly global phenomenon. Research firm International Data Corporation projects that by 2003, 46 percent of e-commerce spending will come from outside of the United States. In Western Europe alone e-commerce spending will jump from $5.6 billion last year to $430 billion in 2003, IDC forecasts.

But OneSwoop.com might be choosing a difficult industry to break into online. Although J.D. Powers & Associates estimates that some 40 percent of new car buyers in the United States are shopping online, Internet auto sales have been held up by regulations that forbid manufacturers from selling directly to consumers, and by auto sales laws that vary from state to state.

Typically, online automobile sales sites such as AutoWeb and Carpoint direct car-buying consumers to offline dealerships in their area.

Naumann said that unlike automobile site in the United States, OneSwoop.com will offer a complete solution, allowing European consumers to select and purchase a car online, as well as getting insurance and financing for it. Indeed, OneSwoop.com will deliver the car to the customer's doorstep, Naumann said.

"That's kind of the big breakthrough, to do the whole process," he said.

OneSwoop.com will initially launch the service for car buyers in the United Kingdom, but Naumann said the company plans to expand service to buyers throughout the European Union soon after launching.

Initially, the company will only offer cars from Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Rover, and Volkwagen, but Naumann said that the company is working plans to expand its selection over time.

Previously, Calico has worked with companies like Gateway, Dell Computer, and Cisco to develop both business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-commerce offerings, Naumann said.

"Our strategy is to pick an innovative adopter of Web technology and work with them to develop a full solution," Naumann said.