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GM testing online system inside beltway

The Washington, D.C., area is the testing ground for the automaker's new system that lets customers search for a vehicle, price and dealership online.

General Motors said Wednesday it is bringing to the Washington, D.C., area the test of a new Internet-based system that lets customers search for a vehicle, check the price and choose a dealership online.

The Detroit-based automaker announced a deal last month with online car seller to offer the 90-day test of the "locate-to-order" model service, which will launch May 1.

Chevrolet dealers in the Washington, D.C., area, which includes northern Virginia, southern Maryland and the District of Columbia, will participate in the pilot program, the companies said in a statement Wednesday.

The test is designed to help GM and its dealers learn how to create an effective online locate-to-order system that displays a view of available vehicle inventory in a specific market area and lets consumers purchase selected vehicles at a dealer-set online price.

Using the system, vehicle buyers will be able to find the particular Chevrolet car or truck they want to buy and select a dealer to complete the sales transaction online.

GM picked Irvine, Calif.-based Autobytel to host the independent test in February. The automaker is on a mission to become the most Internet savvy Old Economy manufacturer in the world. In January, the company outlined plans that would allow it to sell much of its internal applications for e-commerce exchanges and customer financing to outside companies.

GM is also a founding partner, with DaimlerChrysler, of Covisint, a central marketplace for parts auctions and project collaboration between as many as 40,000 companies that do business with the automobile industry.