First, there was eBay, and then there was Google. And now, the Internet has done it again, with several Web sites that display manufacturer-suggested retail prices of heavy construction machinery for all to see.

Ironically, equipment manufacturers are building the sites to expand their Web presence, similar to today's automakers. "We are seeing a growing trend where more and more of our customers are involved on the Internet," says John Johnston, e-business manager for Volvo Construction Equipment North America Inc., Asheville, N.C.

Web Shopping Tools

CATERPILLAR "Build and Quote"
DEERE "Build Your Own"
VOLVO "Build & Price"
source: ENR.

Within the past two years, a handful of new shopping sites have popped up. Buyers can configure machines, price them out with options and contact a dealer to close the sale. "In the past, dealers didn't let their salesmen see any published price lists," says Frank Manfredi, an equipment analyst in Mundelein, Ill. "They created their own and were able to 'build in' better margins."

Not all machines are covered. Caterpillar's site, for example, limits equipment pricing to small dozers, excavators and other compact equipment.