Maryann Keller: Zipping Onto The I Way

Maryann Keller, high-octane auto analyst, is the latest member of the old economy to join the dot.com world. But the veteran from ING Baring Furman Selz is not washing her hands of motor oil; she's the new president of Priceline.com's new automotive unit, building a business that steers shoppers to dealers willing to make a deal below the sticker price.

Priceline.com has proved it can deliver discount airfares and cheap hotel rooms to online shoppers who name their price--which sellers accept or reject. But cars? Why not? asks Keller. And Priceline's model for selling cars online has distinct pluses. "We don't have to worry about inventory, service, or trade-ins," says Keller, who is keeping mum on what Priceline is paying her. "We just have to deliver bona fide customers to dealers."

So will virtual showrooms replace dealers? No, says Keller, 55, who will take Priceline's car business, now in New York, nationwide. "There will always have to be a place to go to look at a car." Until someone figures out a way to kick the tires online.