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News International to enter online car classifieds market

A UK media giant is launching a classified advertising website aimed squarely at the higher disposable income middle classes this October.

News International hopes to tap into the 11 million weekly readership base of its The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers and websites by offering what it describes as a premium search experience for car buyers.

The company told AM the website will be branded – the Driving brand had previously headed the Sunday Times’ motoring supplement - and will be a portal for franchised dealers to market their stock priced above £14,000.

Former executive Ian Webber, now sales director at, told AM the website has been created using feedback from Sunday Times readers, the majority of whom are in the AB demographic classifications, and franchised dealer groups.

It will have a look and feel that a premium audience would expect.

It is also expected to be ‘sticky’ and draw users back regularly, through editorial content from high profile Sunday Times contributors, including road tester Gavin Conway and columnists Jeremy Clarkson and Jay Leno.

The ambition is for to show 75% of the available market of £14,000+ cars, ensuring a significant opportunity for the consumer to find their desired car.

Asked how established websites such as Auto Trader, Motors, VCars and Parkers may react to this newcomer, he declined to comment.

Premium search experience

However he said News International genuinely feels there is no current website which delivers a premium experience for a more premium consumer.

The feedback from News International’s audience was that the search process was too fragmented and required visits to too many different websites to get the full picture.

“We’re building in a number of functions for the consumer that will really enhance their search process. We want to make sure this is interesting, entertaining and the definitive car search process within a premium environment,” he added.

"In a search results page it is very difficult to put across why buyers should buy from franchised dealers as opposed to independents. We want to help get the message across that this is why consumers should buy from dealer groups."

Webber said his team has already been getting out to see franchised dealer groups and manufacturers and the first advertisers are signing up this month.

The website will go live in October with significant promotion within The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times to a total weekly readership of 30 million people, as well as online marketing and search optimisation.

Auto Trader responds

Following AM's report of News International's imminent launch, Auto Trader group director Nathan Coe said Trader Media Group welcomes any new entrant that will help to highlight the benefits of advertising and selling new and used cars online to helps dealers sell vehicles in these tough times.

Coe said TMG "is committed to maintaining its market leadership position and ensuring it continues to deliver to dealers more high quality leads and more buyers than any of its competitors, and will continue to focus on, and invest in, future developments and exciting new innovations."

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