FRANKFURT, Germany—Continental A.G. and Autobytel.com, a leading automotive e-commerce company, have agreed to work together to create a consumer tire shopping service on various Autobytel sites.
The agreement calls for Continental to invest up to $15 million in Autobytel companies in Europe and in the "tire module" concept, as the companies call it.
It is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2001. Continental General Tire Inc. will be involved in setting up the North American sites.
"We did not want to simply step into the so-called `new economy' for the sake of it but, instead, wanted to find the right partners to fulfill our vision of the `true economy,' " Stephan Kessel, president and CEO of Continental, said in a prepared statement.
The tire module will feature information on tire specifications, prices, dealers etc., and will be available to all tire brands, the new partners said. Conti said it expects the project to generate additional revenues for it and its subsidiary companies.
"In Autobytel we have found an...Internet partner that allows us to integrate our traditional dealer-based distribution channels into our Internet strategies," Mr. Kessel said.
Irvine, Calif.-based Autobytel is considered a pioneer in new car e-commerce business, and is the leading company in its field in the U.S. with more than 1 percent of all new car sales, Conti said. Autobytel.com's wholly owned subsidiary, CarSmart.com, is a network of more than 5,000 car dealers nationwide that considers itself the seventh-largest generator of automotive sales in the U.S.
In addition to car shopping information, the Autobytel sites offer purchasing, financing, insurance and service options.
The Conti-Autobytel agreement calls for Conti to buy into Autobytel's European holding and its Swedish subsidiary; negotiations are under way for further investments in Autobytel companies in Germany and Belgium.