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Vehix Sheds Dot.Com from Name; Adds Texting Capabilities

Reflective of new mobile applications, Vehix, the cable-driven, multiplatform automotive-sales network, dropped the “dot.com” label from its moniker.

Owned in part by Comcast, Vehix -- which has been providing research and purchasing tools on the Web, cable television and video-on-demand -- added texting capabilities in which consumers actively shopping for a new car can request messages containing specific vehicle and dealership details from Vehix.com to their mobile phones.

Beginning next month, Vehix will begin promoting a mobile version of Vehix.com in which all of the site’s inventory, pricing, dealership information, photos, search capabilities and more will be adapted for the three-inch screen, according to CEO Derek Mattson.

He said the changes are being made to reflect the way consumers currently shop for cars.

“Consumers, in the market for automobiles, access research from many platforms, and we want to be responsive to their needs,” he added, noting that these platforms play into the advanced high-speed and VOD offerings of Vehix’s cable partners.

In addition to Comcast, Vehix shares an undisclosed percentage of ad revenue generated by the operation with Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Bresnan Communications, Cable One and Mediacom Communications.

Ads are tailored to meet consumer needs at the various stages of the sale process through relationships with manufacturers and some 1,700 dealers around the country. For instance, consumers initiating their search would receive an ad from, say, General Motors, while those narrowing down their search would be plied by messages from local dealers about pricing and service.

The company’s goal, with the assist of the cable operators, is to grow that dealer base to 10,000 by the end of 2009. “The 150 cable account executives working with Vehix are really our mouths and feet in the marketplace,” Mattson said.

He added that Vehix -- which averages 10-15 typically high-profile dealerships in a market -- wants to expand its presence to 90-100 per DMA. To make that jump, the company is now offering dealers three different packages. “Basic” is largely a listings service, while “platinum” features all Vehix resources, including VOD and prominent ad placements on the Web sites. Mattson said the “gold level falls somewhere in between.” Vehix will add 22 new markets this year, including Houston, according to Mattson.

Launched in 1996 by Garff Automotive, a large dealership group based in Salt Lake City, as an online portal designed to facilitate the research and purchase processes for consumers, Vehix evolved to include the cable-TV component before adding VOD applications last year.

The service receives multimedia exposure via cross-promotion across its various platforms, including cross-channel avails valued at $200 million-$250 million annually on its cable partners’ systems.