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Microsoft prepares for launch of carview.co.uk

The future of Microsoft's new motoring website will be based on partnerships with the established internet and 'bricks and mortar' players.

With the official launch of www.carview.co.uk set to take place on Tuesday, its managing director John Brewer said that should the outcome of the 2002 review of the Block Exemption regulation lead to an opening up of the retail market, he would still seek partnerships with established names in the auto industry.

There would be no move by the company into establishing it own retail outlets.

And Mr Brewer said he did not anticipate a widescale move by manufacturers to imitate Mercedes-Benz' decision to give its network 12-month notice of contract termination.

Carview is described as a car buying and ownership website offering news and advice as well as e-commerce opportunities, underpinned in its retail operation by a partnership with the UK's largest dealer group, Pendragon. When a customer orders a car, Pendragon's call centre handles the transaction and the car is also sourced, prepared and supplied by its franchised network.

Carview has also partnered with Cap Network to supply used car pricing information together with more than 4,000 pages of information on every make, model and trim of vehicle available for sale in the UK, creating is claimed will be the most comprehensive new car research facility on any UK website.

The third prominent Carview partnership is with Autotrader.co.uk, through which users will be able to place online adverts for used cars to be broadcast on each organisation's website, and Autotrader's WAP and digital TV services.

Mr Brewer said: “In developing our services we look to ally certain competencies and a company like Pendragon provide us with the expertise we need in retailing new cars. So there is absolutely no need for Carview to get involved when there are others ideally placed to handle that side of it for us.

“And this will be our strategy in the future. We are not overly concerned with the changes to Block Exemption because I don't see there will be a drastic change in the way new cars are distributed. However, any dealer worth its salt will be looking at new ways to improve the customer experience – and that we expect will involve using the internet more. “The Block Exemption review may allow new entrants into the market, but Carview will not be opening dealerships and selling direct.”

Carview envisages the feedback from website users to identify and plug gaps in Pendragon's UK dealer network and also provide it and manufacturers with information about what customers are asking for most in a new vehicle.

“If users making their choice of desired car are predominantly picking one particular model accessory or colour, that is valuable information to the vehicle's manufacturer or supplying dealer to alter their build and supply programmes,” Mr Brewer said of possible future relationships.

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