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eBay overhauls auto site after complaints

Responding to criticism, the online auction giant is quietly beta-testing a new look for its automotive auction site.

Responding to criticism, eBay is quietly beta-testing a new look for its automotive auction site, but the change may be too little too late as one of the top sellers on eBay Motors has decided to scale back his auto auctions.

The new look attempts to simplify the design of the auto section's home page, decreasing the number of images and adding text links. The look and feel of the new site have been some of the chief complaints from eBay members.

eBay notified buyers and sellers of the beta test in a posting on its message boards. "In response to community feedback, we are working to improve the design of the eBay Motors home page, and we would like to hear your opinions on the changes that we have made thus far," a company representative wrote in the posting.

Members quickly responded, criticizing how long it has taken eBay to respond to their comments and demands for more changes. "What's the point of asking for our input, and our giving it to you, when you guys just don't listen," one member wrote. "The more you try to fix it, the worse it gets."

eBay executives did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The new look comes as at least one eBay power seller has said he will scale back his auctions in response to declining sales on eBay Motors. Ken Topham, owner of Arlington, Texas-based Auto Showcase, said that bidding, sales and inquiries about his cars have all declined since eBay Motors launched in April.

Topham said that before eBay Motors, his automobile auctions had been a "phenomenal success," selling about 400 used cars through eBay since November. With about 60 car sales through eBay each month, Topham said he shifted almost all of his automobile business online and hired three employees just to handle email and telephone inquiries.

Now, he says, he is on pace to sell just 20 cars this month. Topham has 37 cars up for auction on eBay. Five of the cars are slated to sell because they either have met a reserve price or have received a minimum bid. But on the other 32, the bidding has not yet reached Topham's reserve price.

Topham said he has lost $60,000 since eBay Motors launched because he has had to re-list auctions and decrease his reserve prices to sell cars. Not only has he begun to limit the number of cars he sells through eBay Motors, but he has started to place a notice on his auctions, encouraging prospective bidders to call him and complete sales offline.

"We had something that worked so very well that I'm convinced we could have put Dixie cups up there and sold them," Topham said. "We now have auctions that have run eight and nine times, and we're losing money on cars just to get them gone."

eBay Motors debuted in late April, adding its collector car, car parts, car collectibles and other vehicle auctions to the used-car auctions on its eBay-AutoTrader.com site.

Buyers and sellers immediately attacked the site, saying it was difficult to navigate, had too many categories, and included items such as boats and airplanes that did not belong with used cars. eBay has already made some changes and promised others, but members have continued to post their complaints on the company's message boards.

Despite the outspoken criticism, eBay has maintained in the past that sales are up and that most members are happy with the new site.