Direct Line expects to gain nearly 200,000 online motor insurance customers by the end of this year, it revealed this week.

The UK's biggest direct writer made the announcement along with impressive annual results. Profits were 163% up on the same period the previous year.

It calculated its market share using information from research company Meridien, which claims that this year 450,000 of us will buy motor policies online.

Direct Line's ecommerce managing director Oliver Prill said: "The growth of has been phenomenal. Our aim of selling 15% of motor insurance online by 2003 looks within very easy reach. Our success has been down to an internet-compatible brand, which sells cheaper insurance through a highly streamlined online process."

The site, which was launched last September, is already generating 150,000 quotations per month, with a great deal of web surfers being attracted outside normal working hours.

The insurer is planning a further assault on the internet market later this year. First will come a multi-million pound marketing campaign for the site.

This summer Direct Line will be unveiling a £50m car-buying portal where customers will be able to buy new and used cars online. This will also provide motor insurance cover.

Overall in the online general insurance market, including home and travel, the direct insurer believes it will gain around 30% of the market.

Direct Line claims that, in ideal circumstances, it takes customers just two minutes to obtain quotes and the system is also integrated into the insurer's call centre operation.