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Auto buyers flocking to dealer Web sites

November 18, 2010
Used nearly as often as newspapers

New-car buyers visiting dealership Web sites have increased by more than 70 percent over the past four years, according to market research released April 24 by Friedman-Swift Associates, an automotive marketing research firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Last year, 30 percent of new-car buyers visited dealers’ Web sites, compared to 35 percent who looked at dealers’ advertising in local newspapers.


"Newspapers have to be concerned," says Friedman-Swift Associates President Judy George. "Five years ago, dealerships centered their advertising strategy on big ads in local newspapers. Now, more car buyers use dealer Web sites which, in some markets, are less expensive than the cost of a single newspaper ad."


The Friedman-Swift research, based on telephone surveys with 12,270 new car customers in 2005, shows the number of people using dealer Web sites is climbing rapidly.


"In 2001, only 17 percent of new-car buyers went to their dealer’s Web site before they bought a car," said George. "Now, more people see the Internet as a quick source of information about a specific car or a specific dealership."


Import car buyers are more likely to click on a dealership Web site than GM, Ford or Chrysler owners, according to Friedman-Swift’s research.


Thirty-six percent of import car buyers in 2005 looked at their dealer’s Web site before they bought their vehicle, compared to 25 percent of domestic car buyers, George said.


While the number of people who go to Web sites has surged, the number who use newspapers to help choose a dealership has declined slightly. Three years ago, George said, the number of car buyers who consulted local newspapers before they bought their car was 37 percent.