October 11, 2007

More consumers visit auto manufacturer’s Web sites – J.D. Power

Westlake Village, California – Automotive manufacturer Web sites are gaining ground on independent Web sites, as the percentage of American new-vehicle shoppers who initially visit manufacturer sites achieves parity, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 New Autoshopper.com Study released on Wednesday.

The study found that 47 percent of U.S. new-vehicle buyers using the Internet in their shopping process visit an independent site when initiating research for their new vehicle, and 46 percent first visit a manufacturer site. This marks a substantial shift from 2003, when 62 percent of new-vehicle online shoppers first visited an independent Web site, compared with only 36 percent initially visiting an auto manufacturer Web site. Additionally, the trend is not limited to the beginning of the shopping process. Shoppers are relying on manufacturer sites throughout the entire purchase cycle more than ever before.

“As automotive manufacturers have steadily pulled advertising dollars out of traditional media and redirected them toward digital media and search engine marketing, manufacturer Web site visitation has increased,” said Steve Witten, executive director of marketing/media research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Since the automotive industry makes some of the largest advertising expenditures in the United States, a small shift in the percentage of marketing dollars to digital media has quickly leveled the visitation share between manufacturer and independent sites.”

However, the study found that despite a steady decline in visitation rates to independent sites – some of which offer newer vehicle selector tools and improved vehicle pricing estimates – they remain the most useful type of site.

“Third-party sites will always have a key role in the automotive shopping process due to their independent nature,” said Witten. “However, independent sites may need to investigate the areas of navigation, speed and – most importantly- content offered in order to retain favorable shopper ratings and increase visitation.”

The New Autoshopper.com Study also found that nearly 69 percent of new-vehicle buyers who utilize the Internet in their shopping process use one or more types of consumer-generated content. Consumer ratings and reviews are the most popular form of consumer-generated content among shoppers, with 64 percent reporting usage. Enthusiast sites, question and answer sites, online forums, blogs and photo-sharing sites are considered helpful by shoppers, but have much lower usage rates than do consumer reviews and ratings.

The 2007 New Autoshopper.com Study is based on the self-reported shopping habits of 29,272 U.S. new-vehicle buyers. The study was fielded from May to July 2007.

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