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J.D. Power and Assoc.: High Levels of New-Vehicle Buyers Turn to the Internet

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

New-vehicle buyers are using the Internet more than ever when researching vehicle
information, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 New Autoshopper.com Study. The
study finds that 75 percent of new-vehicle buyers in 2008 are using the Internet during
their shopping process, compared with 70 percent in 2007. This year marks the largest
year-over-year increase in online shopping since 2001. The total amount of time shoppers
spend online researching automotive information has also increased since 2007-up 12 percent
to more than six and a half hours. Meanwhile, the number of Web sites being visited by
new-vehicle shoppers has remained relatively flat since 2007, which suggests that consumers
have become more engaged with the sites they currently visit. “The current economic
environment, coupled with high fuel prices, has given rise to a shift in the vehicle buying
habits of U.S. consumers,” said Arianne Walker, director of marketing/media research at
J.D. Power and Associates. “Shoppers who were once loyal to larger vehicle models are now
finding themselves in the market for a compact or midsize car. For many, this is unknown
territory, and these shoppers are turning to the Internet for information and education
about the vehicles in their new consideration set.” According to the study, nearly 70
percent of automotive Internet users (AIUs) utilize consumer-generated content while
shopping for a new vehicle, with 63 percent of AIUs utilizing this resource. Additionally,
95 percent of AIUs who use consumer ratings and reviews say that the information is
“helpful.” Dealer ratings and reviews are also popular among new-vehicle shoppers, with 38
percent of AIUs utilizing the resource, and 87 percent of those find the information
“helpful.” “The collaborative environment facilitated by Web 2.0 is changing the way
shoppers research vehicles, driving many to seek the experiences and opinions of other
shoppers and owners,” said Walker. “The opinions of other consumers are so impactful that
we are already seeing distinct purchasing patterns develop between those shoppers who use
consumer ratings and reviews, and those who rely solely on expert ratings and reviews.” The
study also finds that different types of automotive Web sites have specific benefits that
satisfy the information and shopping needs of consumers. For example, shoppers view
independent, third-party sites-such as Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com)-as being
most useful for researching vehicle pricing and for providing ratings, reviews and forums.
Conversely, shoppers view manufacturer Web sites as most useful for their information on
vehicle model options, features and specifications, while dealer sites are perceived as
being most useful for inventory information. “The challenge for automotive manufacturers
and dealers alike is discovering how best to get involved in online conversations taking
place among consumers in order to shift sales to their advantage,” said Walker . “Knowing
the strengths of various types of sites and where shoppers are going for their information
can enable manufacturers and dealers to manage their site content more strategically and
focus on efficiently targeting consumers at each stage of the shopping process.” The study
also finds that Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) is the most visited independent Web site, with
44 percent of automotive Internet users visiting the site. Additionally, Edmunds.com is the
most useful independent Web site among automotive Internet users. Edmunds.com shoppers are
42 percent more likely than consumers using other independent, third-party sites to say
that the reviews, forums and ratings are the most useful information on the site. The 2008
New Autoshopper.com Study is based on the self-reported shopping habits of 27,901
new-vehicle buyers.

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