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Report: 25% of New Car Buyers Shop the Internet

Twenty-five percent of all new-vehicle buyers use the Internet to obtain vehicle product and pricing information, according to the inaugural J.D. Power and Associates New Autoshopper.com Study.

The study revealed that Internet shoppers often know more about the vehicle they want to purchase than dealership salespeople.

"Consumers surfing the Internet for information related to an auto purchase could in one hour become more informed about a particular vehicle than even the most sophisticated salesperson," said Chris Denove, director of consulting operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "Retailers must learn to sell vehicles in a manner that is acceptable to this new breed of informed buyers, while at the same time retaining an acceptable gross profit."

The study showed that attitude about the vehicle purchase process is key in determining what makes a person with access to the Internet turn to online sources for vehicle shopping.

New-car buyers with Internet access who do not go online to shop for a vehicle (29% of new- vehicle buyers) are much less information-hungry, put less effort into getting the best price and are generally more convenience-oriented, according to the study. Automotive Internet shoppers were found to be younger, aggressive, more affluent and willing to put in the time and effort to make sure they obtain the right vehicle at the right price.

According to the study, most automotive Internet shoppers log onto the Internet to find information and services before they visit a dealership and often before they begin thinking seriously about purchasing a new vehicle. Manufacturer Web sites are typically the first place Internet-savvy consumers turn to gather product information.

Currently, 75% of automotive Internet shoppers log onto manufacturer Web sites to find information such as lists of available models, options, specifications, vehicle photos and list prices.

After arming themselves with information from manufacturer sites, Internet shoppers visit consumer guide sites. Consumer guide sites are perceived as being the most useful because they typically provide dealer invoice and other information to help consumers during the negotiation process, the study found.

The 1998 New Autoshopper.com Study is funded independently by J.D. Power and Associates and is part of a series of studies that analyzes the role of the Internet in the vehicle retailing industry.