Though the Internet's influence is growing rapidly, the vast majority of online car shoppers are tire-kickers, according to a report from consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates of Agoura Hills, Calif.
The Internet's primary value to car shoppers is as a research tool. In 2000, more than half of all new-vehicle buyers will consult the Internet as they shop. But three of the four top Internet sites for new- and used-vehicle buyers supply information only, J.D. Power found.
Online buying services - Web sites that route online prospects to dealers for a fee - have yet to make a dent in the new-vehicle market. Though more online buying services continue to crowd the Web, the referrals they send dealers account for just 2.7 percent of all new-vehicle sales. Their sales are growing rapidly, however. J.D. Power expects the services to account for 5 percent of new-vehicle sales in 2000.
The numbers suggest that the industry will need to be patient with this new medium and be willing to spend money on Web sites before it sees a tangible impact on the bottom line.
In other dot.com news: StoneAge.com, an online buying service, is promoting an online sweepstakes. Internet surfers enter to win a new Honda S2000 convertible. There's a clever twist to the promotion: To boost participation, StoneAge.com is encouraging entrants to refer friends to the sweepstakes. If you refer a friend and he or she wins, you get $5,000 cash.
Online buying service Autobytel.com has hired Tracey McCarter as director of women's programs. McCarter will oversee partnerships, market research and Web site content development designed to make women feel more comfortable purchasing cars.
Uautobid.com Inc., an online buying service, has hired 25 sales representatives to recruit dealers willing to sell vehicles on its Web site. Uautobid.com allows customers to bid on and purchase specific vehicles from dealers' inventories.
ExpressAutoParts.com Inc., a Web site that hawks more than auto parts and accessories, has entered an agreement with America Online Inc. to become an anchor tenant in the [email protected] marketplace.
Donna Harris can be reached at [email protected] or at (202) 662-7218.