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Priceline.com expands car offering

The Web site that allows customers to name their own price for products, extends its push into auto services nationwide.

Priceline.com, the Web site that allows customers to name their own price for products, has extended its push into auto services nationwide, a company spokesman said.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based Priceline continues to expand its offerings but only after first testing them in regional markets. The company's auto service was launched last year in prime car-buying markets, such as New York, Miami and California.

The firm is currently testing online groceries in New York and other East Coast cities.

Priceline will now be going head-to-head with CarsDirect.com, Autobytel.com and Autoweb.com. The latter two sites until recently referred car buyers to dealerships and then let the buyer and dealer haggle over price. Both companies this year announced that they would begin selling cars directly to consumers via the Web.

"Our customers have told us that the last thing they want is to haggle with a dealer," Priceline representative Brian Ek said. "They tell us what they want, and we submit the bid to the dealer without ever disclosing the customer's name. The dealer either meets the price or makes a counter-offer."

Priceline charges consumers $25 but only if they buy a car. There is no charge to enter a bid.

Priceline, like eBay, is an alternative commerce exchange. Priceline customers list a price they are willing to pay for travel tickets, hotel rooms and loans, and sellers can either match the price or make a counteroffer.