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New eBay Motors section leaves members sputtering

Online auctioner said today it is shifting gears on its relaunched auto auction site after users complained that it was difficult to list items for sale and hard to navigate the site.

eBay said today it is shifting gears on its relaunched auto auction site after users complained that it was difficult to list items for sale and hard to navigate the site.

eBay Motors, which launched last week, has 400 new product categories and links to an array of auction services.

"In my humble opinion, this is the worst mistake that eBay has made," one customer wrote on the company's Soapbox message boards. "I hope that someone at eBay has the foresight to listen to its sellers and buyers and change it back."

Within hours of a CNET report about problems company representatives said eBay planned to address a number of user concerns, including their difficulty in listing items and complaints about new categories. Later today, the company plans to detail the changes on its announcements board, they said.

"We goofed," company spokesman Henry Gomez said.

The criticism is reminiscent of the fallout over the company's extended outages last year and the outrage many members felt when the company added a fee for reserve auctions. In both cases, eBay users flooded message boards with complaints and threatened to move their auctions elsewhere.

Analysts credit eBay's missteps in those and other cases with increasing numbers of people using Yahoo, and other auction sites.

Sellers have complained that on the new site they must manually enter auction listings instead of using bulk auction loading programs and that the new categories make it difficult for buyers and sellers alike to find specific items.

Seller Rich Reed said he canceled all of his ongoing auctions of motorcycle magazines and parts when the new site launched because of the problems. Although he has since listed some of his items on Yahoo's auction site, he has not listed any new items on eBay.

"That was my way of protesting," said Reed, of Chico, Calif. "I want to see what's going to happen."

He didn't have to wait long.

The company said this afternoon that it would update its Mister Lister and Auction Assistant programs so that users can use them to bulk list items on to eBay Motors. The company also plans to move some of the categories and items on eBay Motors back to eBay proper.

Several customers said eBay had contacted them to learn why they were upset with the new site. An eBay representative assured customers on a message board that the company would respond to their suggestions today.

Members also said that when eBay created the new site, it canceled several old auction categories. Those categories cannot be searched from eBay Motors, they complained, and many sellers had active auctions when they were closed. Sellers were asked to close their auctions and list them in the new site.

The new site's classification system was also far different from the old categories, making the site more difficult to browse and search, customers said.

Reed, who has been selling on eBay for about a year, said the previous site classifications allowed for some serendipity. People interested in Triumph motorcycles, for instance, would find not only the motorcycles, but also related merchandise such as items that Reed sells.

Reed added that his listings could be overlooked now. A general search for his items on eBay Motors turned up unrelated Triumph car parts, while a specific search within the motorcycle section won't find related parts and memorabilia.

The site also lumped everything unrelated to cars and motorcycles into an "other vehicles" section. For sellers of airplane parts, farming equipment and boating-related items--all of which were classified as other vehicles--it is a category that is both unintuitive and unacceptable, according to some members.

Frank Rowe, who has been selling marine parts and magazines on eBay for about two years, says his buyers were having a hard time finding his items on the new site.

Boats are "vessels," not vehicles, Rowe said, and the new site didn't clarify what was inside the other vehicles section.

"They just put everything that shouldn't be in the eBay Motors category all in one massive modern-day-Frankenstein-monster mess," he said.

Many items that are on eBay come from sellers who list items en masse. These power sellers have turned to listing programs such as eBay's own Mister Lister and similar services offered by auction portals such as AuctionWatch.

But the new system isn't compatible with the old listing services, including those offered by eBay.

"The major sellers, nearly all of whom use auction management software to assist in listing, cannot list that way and must either not list, or list manually, or list elsewhere," one person wrote on the eBay message boards. "(This is an) incredible blunder."

Despite the outcry, analysts said eBay probably won't be hurt much by the problems, since neither of its chief rivals, Amazon and Yahoo, have made much of a push into automobile auctions. And the company said its car listings have actually jumped since the site launched.

"We made some missteps in terms of our execution of this," company chief operating officer Brian Swette said. But he added. "We've got a great auto site."