Autobytel Acquires iDriveonline

Autobytel this week agreed to acquire iDriveonline, adding a new customer relationship management (CRM) arrow to the automotive marketing services company’s quiver.

Users who research car buys on Autobytel are funneled to auto dealerships to make test drives and complete the actual purchase. By adding iDriveonline, which nurtures consumers’ after-purchase relationships with dealers, Autobytel strengthens its offerings in the dealership service reminder business.

The company has an existing CRM product, Retention Performance Marketing (RPM), which it will merge with iDriveonline, a company spokeswoman said. While both services are based on a monthly fee model, iDriveonline brings in higher monthly fees per dealer than RPM, an average of more than $2,000 as opposed to $1,200.

iDriveonline maintains a Web site where car owners can keep track of their vehicle records. The firm also sends email and postal mail service reminders, recall notices and other related materials to car owners, strengthening their relationships with dealerships — and, hopefully, driving them to the dealerships for their repairs and maintenance work.

RPM and iDriveonline are used by a total of about 650 dealers nationwide. The company expects that about 1,300 dealers will be using the combined product by the end of 2004.

The dealership reminder business is a lucrative one. Parts and service account for 12 percent of auto dealers’ revenues industry wide, but 48 percent of their operating profit, according to the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA). Also, service customers are seven times more likely to buy their next car from the dealership where they have their car serviced.

“Autobytel’s relationship with the dealers is an important part of the business model and the revenue stream. Now we’re not just sending the dealer the customer and leaving it at that. With RPM and iDriveonline we are helping them keep the customer through the entire life cycle,” said Fred van der Neut, president of iDriveonline.

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