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Ford Motor Begins Online Sales Operation in 9 States


DETROIT — Hoping to sidestep online brokers who try to undercut traditional dealers, Ford Motor Co. has begun operating its fledgling online sales operation in nine states, including California, the auto maker said Monday.

Ford is selling cars through a joint venture with its dealers called It's the auto manufacturer's latest attempt to embrace the Internet and dodge brokers who try to offer cheaper prices than bricks-and-mortar dealerships.

Through, customers can specify a Ford model and desired options and view inventories of dealers closest to them.

Shoppers in New Jersey and Delaware receive vehicle "e-prices" that are generally lower than the manufacturer's suggested retail price. In California, those surfing the Web for a Ford will be quoted the MSRP, because dealers have not set up a system to agree on an e-price, but the MSRP is negotiable, said Chief Operating Officer David Kain. The other states online with FordDirect are Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. More than 90% of the roughly 200 Ford dealers in both California and Texas are participating.

FordDirect represents a break in the legal battles between auto makers and dealers, who have sought to toughen state franchise laws to prevent manufacturers from selling directly to the public.

Peter Gruppuso of Beachwood, N.J., went to several Sundays ago and drove a new Ranger pickup home the next day. He had been quoted the MSRP online, but when he went to the dealership he was quoted a lower price. "We took a test-drive, and I wanted the truck. It took about two hours," said Gruppuso, who appeared at Monday's announcement at Ford headquarters.

FordDirect's approach is different from General Motors Corp.'s, which is starting its online experiment next month in the Washington area. Customers can obtain quotes from 22 Chevrolet dealers in the region through, a well-established referral service. GM is teaming with Autobytel because customers perceive third-party Web sites as more objective by a margin of 3 to 1, according to GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney.

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