Autobytel ( ABTL) hired Merrill Lynch to find a buyer. The Irvine, Calif., car marketing firm said Merrill would assist it in exploring strategic alternatives, "which may include potential acquisitions of, or mergers with, complementary businesses, as well as a potential sale of the company." "Autobytel is a pioneer in Internet automotive marketing," said CEO Rick Post. "We believe that, in order to continue to innovate in this competitive and constantly evolving industry, we need to achieve greater scale. Accordingly, we have decided to explore strategic alternatives with the goal of maximizing shareholder value and providing best of breed services for our customers." Trading of Autobytel shares was halted late Monday after falling 3 cents to $4.52.