During the first half of the 1998 model year, almost half of BMW of North America Inc.'s buyers used the Internet to shop for BMW cars.
That was more than double the percentage of General Motors buyers who went online to shop Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac-GMC or Saturn in the same period.
The results are from a study by Polk Co. for Automotive News. It is based on responses from 40,000 new-vehicle buyers.
The study found that import buyers are more likely to use the Internet to look for a vehicle, while GM and Ford Motor Co. have the lowest percentage of buyers who surf the World Wide Web for their products.
Polk found that Internet car shoppers use automotive Web sites primarily to check vehicle prices, features and options, ratings and comparisons and manufacturers' product offerings.
Polk also found that the number of new-vehicle buyers who used the Internet increased from 18.6 percent in the first half of the 1997 model year to 27.2 percent in the first six months of the 1998 model year.
The study found dealer Web sites are not as popular as manufacturers' sites. Fifty-nine percent of Internet car shoppers visited manufacturer Web sites, and only 28 percent of them clicked on dealer Web sites.
Said Karen Piurkowski, Polk's director of loyalty: 'A great potential exists for extending the consumer's use of the Internet from simply gathering information to establishing a relationship with the dealership.'