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J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Automotive Internet Shoppers Increasingly Satisfied with the Usefulness of Manufacturer Web Sites

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo) Ranks Highest Among Manufacturer Web Sites

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., Feb. 1 -- Even though the expectations of Internet automotive shoppers continue to increase, they also continue to give record-high ratings to auto manufacturer Web sites, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study(SM) -- Wave 1 released today.

The study measures Web site usefulness based on consumer ratings of three main components: relevance, navigation and appearance/presentation.

The study shows an average usefulness index rating of 799 for the industry -- up 11 points from the measurement taken just seven months ago. Despite rising expectations by consumers for manufacturer Web sites, the lowest-rated site in 2005 receives higher usefulness ratings than did the highest-rated site in 2001.

"There is much more to come, but the automotive industry does a fantastic job of keeping up with the needs and expectations of online shoppers," said Dennis Galbraith, senior director of automotive marketing solutions at J.D. Power and Associates. "While the cost effectiveness of television advertising continues to be challenged, manufacturer sites have proven to be a tremendous benefit to shoppers and an unprecedented promotional value for manufacturers."

HUMMER leads the industry with an index score of 828, based on a 1,000-point scale. Visitors to rate it highly in ease of navigation and consistent aesthetic appeal throughout the site.

" is loaded with vivid photos, videos, sketches and technical drawings that demonstrate far more than just the appearance of the vehicles," said Galbraith. "The site effectively demonstrates the capabilities of HUMMER vehicles and the benefits derived from their unique features."

More than one-half (54%) of all new-vehicle buyers visit at least one manufacturer's Web site before purchasing their vehicle. The information content provided by manufacturer sites continues to flourish, with the quantity of pictures and videos continuing to increase. Many sites offer tools to help shoppers find the vehicle to best meet their needs. Once bland, lists of vehicle options and features now frequently include pictures, videos and interactive demos explaining the function and benefits of these items.

"Manufacturers want shoppers to know how their vehicles will enhance the driver's quality of life," said Galbraith. "Many of today's vehicles transport and protect people and cargo in efficient and effective ways that did not exist in previous years. But much of that great engineering is wasted unless shoppers know that it is available and useful. Manufacturer Web sites can deliver volumes of information in ways that are fun and can make even complex safety features easier to understand."

The 2005 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study -- Wave 1 is based on evaluations by more than 11,500 new-vehicle shoppers who indicated they would be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months.

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.