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AOL drives deal with used car site

America Online signs a $17 million marketing deal with AutoConnect, a used car site on the Web.

America Online, the world's largest Internet service provider, today said it has signed a $17 million marketing agreement with AutoConnect, a used car site on the Web.

AOL also signed a three month agreement with GourmetMarket.com, an Internet commerce site for premium food, wine, and kitchenware products.

Separately, AOL's Netscape subsidiary announced today that Netcenter, the company's Internet portal site, has exceeded 15 million registrants worldwide.

As part of the marketing agreement, AutoConnect will be the main sponsor of AOL's Used Car "Decision Guides" on AOL, AOL.com, and CompuServe, trying to help consumers determine what car is right for them by walking them through a series of simple, intuitive questions.

The partnership will provide AOL's and CompuServe's combined 19 million members and the visitors to the Web site AOL.com with direct access to AutoConnect's inventory of 750,000 used cars and trucks, the largest on the Web, according to AutoConnect.

"This unparalleled investment in online automotive marketing will enable us to drive tens of thousands of additional buyers to our dealers every month," said AutoConnect chief executive Chip Perry. "Our goal is to continually provide dealers with the largest number of qualified buyers through our free listings, Web sites, traffic links, and banner advertising."

With this partnership, AOL and CompuServe members and visitors to AOL.com will also be able to list at no charge their cars for sale.

AutoConnect is owned by Manheim Auctions, a subsidiary of media company Cox Enterprises, and the Dealer Services Group of Automatic Data Processing. The site also offers Internet shopping information and services for preowned and new cars and trucks.

GourmetMarket.com announced today that it had signed an initial three-month agreement with the online giant. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

GourmetMarket will give AOL members direct access to GourmetMarket.com's extensive selection of quality food, wine, and kitchenware through a "More Stores" listing in the Gourmet and Grocery department of AOL's Shopping Channel.

Netscape, the maker of once-ubiquitous Navigator Web browser, also said that Netcenter has attracted 1 million new International registrants in the four months ending in March and has exceeded 15 million registrants worldwide.

AOL itself announced yesterday that its subscriber base jumped to 17 million, adding 1 million in about two months.

"Netscape's rapid registrant acquisition is due in part to the popularity of the International Netcenter sites and the adoption of Netcenter services such as Netscape AOL Instant Messenger and Netscape WebMail by USA.net," said Netcenter general manager Mike Homer. "The combination of Netcenter's top-quality services blended with its award-winning client software can greatly enhance a consumers' or business users' online experience."

AOL wrapped up its $10 billion acquisition of Netscape on March 17. Since that time, Netscape's chief executive James Barksdale resigned while a host of other key executives are waiting in the wings to also step down.