Online, offline and on the road to buy a car

Car shoppers are using the Internet for research, but still pound the pavement and head to the car lots to seal the deal. The New York Times reports that the direct sales of new cars over the Internet will increase from 100,000 in 2007 to just 300,000 in 2012, when they will represent only 1.7 percent of all new cars sold. On the other hand, the number of consumers who go online to research a vehicle and contact a dealer for more information (that then results in a sale) will rise to 7.7 million from 5.1 million over the same period. Additionally, the online outlook for financing and insurance is bright. Direct auto financing over the Internet will rise to more than $19 billion in 2012 from $13 billion in 2007 and direct online auto insurance sales will climb to $11.7 billion from $6.6 billion, according to Jupiter Research and the American International Automobile Dealers Association.

More `loaners' becoming rentals

Rising insurance costs are causing more dealers to outsource their loaner-car programs to rental car agencies. Several dealer association sources point to an annual Federated Insurance loss study that shows that problems persist with customers driving loaner and rental vehicles. So, the next time you may have a need for a loaner, don't be surprised if the car is actually a rental vehicle.

Verve = Fiesta

Last month Ford debuted the production version of its new global small car. Fiesta is the name that will serve as the worldwide nameplate, reports Auto Week. Fiesta brings to production styling ideas from the Verve concept-car series seen at other auto shows this year and last year. Fiesta models arrive in European showrooms this fall, with North American sales of a Fiesta sedan set for 2010.