J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Automotive Internet Users Increasingly Visit Manufacturer Web Sites First During the Shopping Process

September 9, 2004

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.�While the majority of new-vehicle buyers who use the Internet continue to begin their vehicle shopping at an independent Web site, manufacturer sites are making significant inroads in attracting Internet shoppers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 New Autoshopper.com StudySM released today.

The study finds that 58 percent of automotive Internet users begin the new-vehicle shopping process at an independent site. However, 40 percent now begin by visiting a manufacturer�s site�up significantly from 36 percent in 2003. Further, 39 percent of automotive Internet users rate manufacturer sites as most useful�up from 36 percent in 2003. Fifty-nine percent find independent sites most useful�a 3 percentage point drop from 2003.

“Manufacturer sites provide the most accurate information regarding their models, including detailed options and features information and trim-specific photos, which are particularly attractive to shoppers who have a specific brand or model in mind,” said Dennis Galbraith, senior director of research for J.D. Power and Associates. “However, independent Web sites play a critical role in providing non-biased information, such as market-value pricing information, which is highly valuable to new-vehicle shoppers, yet lacking on manufacturer sites.”

The most important content features automotive Internet shoppers look for online include dealer cost and invoice information, vehicle options and features, MSRP and reliability ratings. Trade-in value is a feature gaining significantly in importance.

The impact the Internet has on buying decisions continues to be high. Among all new-vehicle buyers, approximately 50 percent say their make/model decision and the price paid/offered were impacted by automotive information found on the Internet�up from about 40 percent in 2002. Twenty-two percent of all new-vehicle buyers also say the Internet impacted their choice of dealer�up from 14 percent in 2002.

The study also finds several key automotive Internet usage patterns:

  • The percentage of new-vehicle buyers who use the Internet in their vehicle shopping process remains steady at 64 percent. The rate for buyers 60 years of age and older shows a big increase to 47 percent�up from 39 percent in 2003.

  • The Pacific and New England regions have the highest percentage of automotive Internet users at 72 percent and 68 percent, respectively. These rates are lowest in most of the central regions of the country at 59 percent.

  • Import brands continue to attract the highest proportion of buyers who are automotive Internet users at 73 percent, compared to just 56 percent for domestic brands.

  • Automotive Internet users spend an average of 4.9 hours online shopping for their new vehicle and visit seven different sites, on average.

  • The 2004 New Autoshopper.com Study is based on responses from 26,838 consumers who leased or purchased a new vehicle registered in January or February 2004.

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm�s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually.