Volvo Cars of North America and America Online (AOL) say that the first online launch of a new car model has surpassed Volvo's initial goals in reaching online auto buyers.

The two companies teamed up to launch the new car on October 15 with a special offer available exclusively to AOL members.

Through this promotion, members are exposed to the Volvo S60 through a variety of areas throughout the service, including the welcome screen, banner placements, and special content areas.

All of these link to the website, where users can view the new car model, customise their vehicle choices and receive information and incentives toward purchasing an S60. AOL members who purchase a car are able to create their own customised accessories package worth up to $US2,100.00 at no additional cost. The Volvo promotion is also featured on AOL's new Autos channel, which offers AOL members information, services and tools for car shopping, buying, and maintenance.

Since the October 15 launch, more than 1 million users have visited the website, yielding over 41 million 'hits'. As a result, more than 20,000 people have configured their own S60 online and contacted a Volvo retailer.

"These preliminary results once again confirm Volvo's belief that the web has a powerful influence on informed auto buyers' decisions," said Mark LaNeve, president and CEO, Volvo Cars of North America. "While others saw the decision to choose online media over national TV and radio as a risk, we saw it as an opportunity to advance the role of the web in marketing.

"This promotion provides with the tools to explore the advantages of the S60 and be rewarded with incentives that matter to them."

Myer Berlow, president of interactive marketing for America Online, said: "This programme highlights the growing trend of consumers going online to research and buy cars. According to the Roper/Starch Cyberstudy, 62% of online consumers use the Internet as part of the process of making any major purchases, like a car. In addition, Volvo's statistics show that more than 80% of Volvo's customers go online as part of the car-buying process."