Honda, BMW sites score big with consumers

How they ranked
Ranking of nameplates that scored above the industry average in the J. D. Power and Associates 2001 Manufacturers Web Site Evaluation Study
1. BMW 12. Infiniti
1. Honda 13. Chrysler
3. Audi 13. Dodge
4. Toyota 15. Pontiac
5. Lincoln 15. Saturn
6. Mercedes-Benz 17. Isuzu
6. Oldsmobile 18. Buick
8. Mazda 19. Acura
9. Lexus 19. Subaru
10. Jaguar 21. Land Rover
11. Hyundai

The Honda and BMW Web sites came out on top in a consumer evaluation of factory Web sites by J.D. Power and Associates.

Honda's site (www.honda2001.com) and BMW's site (www.bmwusa.com) were judged alongside those of nearly every automotive nameplate. The study was released July 30 and involved 8,000 respondents, primarily visitors to the Kelley Blue Book Web site.

Respondents evaluated Web sites for information content, appearance and functionality, vehicle pictures and special effects. The information-content ranking was the most important in the survey, accounting for 48 percent of the total score for each site. Information content included essential facts such as prices and specifications and included the ability to configure a vehicle.

According to Chris Denove, a partner at J.D. Power and the study's director, consumers particularly liked the BMW site's ability to provide details about features, specifications and options, while Honda's site got kudos for making it quick and easy to get vehicle price quotes from dealers.

One thing shoppers liked about both sites was the ability to calculate monthly payments easily, based on various loan terms.

One finding automakers should note is that 41 percent of the respondents who rated a site as a "10"- the highest possible rating - said they were much more likely to test drive a car from that manufacturer.

"Additional investment in (Web sites) may be appropriate since the study once again shows that a well-executed Web site will drive traffic to showrooms," Denove said.

This was the second year for the study but the first time J.D. Power released the rankings of the nameplates. Denove said both BMW and Honda ranked below the industry average in the 2000 study.

Survey respondents, who said they planned to purchase a vehicle within two years, indicated they were satisfied with manufacturers' Web sites as tools to learn about vehicles. Eighty-seven percent said Web sites were more useful than traditional dealership brochures.

Said Denove: "The study shows that it is especially important for less-established brands to find a way to get people to take a look at their sites. The study shows that Web sites are particularly effective at improving perceptions of less-established brands."

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