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IRVINE, Calif. — Autobytel navigated several issues during the first quarter of 2010 to ensure its financial footing and compile some positive results. Examples the company gave on Monday were the elimination of some affiliates to improve the quality of leads for dealer customers and matters relating to Toyota's recalls.

Executives highlighted that its net income turned upward to a total of $797,000. Comparatively, they shared how the company sustained a net loss during the same quarter a year ago, a sum of $357,000.

Autobytel reached that income total despite revenue slipping from $13.9 million to $11.8 million on a year-over-year comparison. The company explained that lead referral revenue for the first three months of 2010 decreased approximately 12 percent from the same period last year. Officials said this factor was impacted primarily by a lower active dealer count, as well the affiliate and Toyota circumstances.

Executives also indicated that advertising revenue declined to $1.1 million during the first quarter of this year, down from $1.7 million in 2009's first quarter. They attributed this decline to an unsettled automotive advertising market.

"We made significant progress against several strategic initiatives this quarter, including stabilizing our dealer base, enhancing relationships with auto manufacturers, controlling expenses and driving positive cash flow," explained Jeffrey Coats, president and chief executive officer of Autobytel.

"Importantly, we are leveraging enhancements in the fundamentals of our business which are intended to generate further gross margin improvement," Coats continued.

"We are optimistic about our ability to begin driving top line growth, as the automotive industry continues to show signs of recovery and Autobytel continues to offer new and inventive products and services that help auto dealers and manufacturers sell more new and used cars," he went on to emphasize.

In other financial details, Autobytel also revealed that its gross margin grew significantly to 40 percent for the first quarter, compared with 36 percent for the first quarter of 2009.

"The improvement reflects an increased number of higher quality, internally generated leads," executives said.

Furthermore, the company noted its total operating expenses for the quarter declined to $4.1 million, including a $2.8 million credit to expenses related to patent litigation settlements. Also, executives mentioned Autobytel's cash and cash equivalents grew to $26.1 million, up $1 million since the end of last year.

Finally, executives shared that there is no debt on Autobytel's balance sheet.

"Fifteen years ago, Autobytel pioneered the automotive Internet," Coats pointed out.

"Today, in light of significant changes in how the auto buying public utilizes the Internet, we are using our significant expertise to bring continued innovation to the auto buying process in a way that we believe has not been done before," he emphasized

"We are not only making substantial and meaningful enhancements to the consumer experience throughout our suite of Web properties, but we are launching new products, such as iControl by autobytel, to give dealers unprecedented control over their online consumer leads. Introduced in February at the NADA annual convention, iControl by autobytel is already gaining traction as dealers recognize the need to better match their lead mix to the actual conditions and inventory on their lots," Coats explained.

"We are pleased about the progress we have made so far and are even more excited about our prospects," he concluded.