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Wal-Mart Goes Even Bigger Box - With Cars


How 'bout a Toyota with that toilet paper?

Things to buy at Wal-Mart (WMT): paper towels, toothpaste, jeans and a new car.

Yup, Wal-Mart now sells cars. The Live X Auto Exchange, an online trading link, set up pilot operations in Wal-Mart Supercenters in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The Good Old Boys with MBAs in Bentonville, Arkansas are testing the auto business at the right time – many dealers can't line up credit in the market crunch and face closure. If all goes well, Wal-Mart may step into the void.

Selling cars online isn't new. CarMax (KMX) and AutoNation (AN) have done it for years. But Wal-Mart adds its marketing muscle to the mix along with a daily stampede of customers ready to buy. Who knows, maybe a significant number will think about Wal-Mart when buying a car in the future.

"Our Wal-Mart based trading floors are essentially marketing centers for both new and used vehicles, auto-related products and services, as well as for the all-new Live X brand," Patrick Dial, founder of the Live X Auto Exchange, said in a prepared statement.

"We help customers leverage the power and efficiency of the Internet so buyers and sellers can find each other faster and without the normal cost structures of middlemen or the overhead of a dealership. Given today's economic environment, I believe this is exactly the promise of value that car buyers everywhere have been looking for."

But what about kicking the tires? CarMax and AutoNation allow customers to review a large number of cars for sale in their area quickly and narrow the search before looking at more vehicles. Wal-Mart hopes to build off their success.

At Wal-Mart, "trading assistants" are nearby to help customers navigate Live X's interactive Web site, post their vehicles for sale, offer trade-ins and help look for a new or used car.

This is another blow to whatever's left of the newspaper industry's classified ad business. Somehow, it's fitting that the kick in the gut is delivered by Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer.

With its new automotive business, Wal-Mart is diversifying in its march to glory. What a concept.
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