IRVINE, Calif.—Autobytel.com, a provider of Internet automotive ``e-commerce'' and services, has agreed to acquire W.G. Nichols, publisher of the Chilton series of automobile repair manuals. The transaction gives Irvine-based Autobytel.com an extensive bank of repair information and a widely recognized brand in auto publishing.
Under the July 29 agreement, Autobytel.com will acquire the outstanding stock of privately held W.G. Nichols of West Chester, Pa., and a related entity, Marine Information Technology, for $13 million in cash and 253,923 shares of common stock. Marine Information publishes repair and maintenance procedures for watercraft.
W.G. Nichols has annual revenues of $13 million. Autobytel.com reported revenues of $17.2 million in the first half of 1999.
Autobytel.com said it wants to offer assistance to technicians over the Internet, and the well-known Chilton name will help. On June 21, the company launched an online service reminder program in which consumers receive e-mail messages reminding them when their vehicles are due for maintenance.
Mark Lorimer, president and CEO of Autobytel.com, said the company's strategy is to leverage its position in online auto purchasing to provide Internet solutions to consumers over the entire life cycle of a vehicle.
Chilton's ``outstanding repair procedures and labor cost databases will enable us to deliver even more value to consumers and accelerate our penetration into the ownership portion of the vehicle life cycle—the cornerstone of which is service, repair and parts,'' Mr. Lorimer said.
``As we add procedures and labor cost databases to the Autobytel.com site, consumers will be able to validate the pricing of automobile service quotes, in much the same way that they can validate new-vehicle price quotes today.''
Under the new ownership, W.G. Nichols CEO Richard Van Dalen, will continue to head the operation, which will remain in West Chester.
Since 1925, the Chilton brand, with over 180 titles currently in publication, has been a leading U.S. publisher of auto-related content, detailing general and specific auto repairs and procedures.
Autobytel.com is considered the leader in online automotive commerce. Launched in 1995, it assists consumers through every aspect of the automotive life cycle, including a low-cost, no-haggle car-buying program available in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
The Autobytel.com acquisition is yet another merger or joint venture by online buying services. Priceline. com, which allows customers to bid on new vehicles, recently reached a marketing agreement with AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest car dealership group, to expand Priceline.com's reach.