DETROIT -- Consumer ratings and reviews of dealerships are coming to vehicle-shopping site AutoTrader.com in the next year, said AutoTrader Group President Sandy Schwartz.
Shoppers like reviews, but for dealerships they can be a hassle to solicit and manage.
AutoTrader's archrival auto shopping Web site, Cars.com, has been posting reviews and ratings of dealerships for about two years. About 263,000 reviews have gone up on the site.
"We are going to go to ratings, without question," Schwartz said during a visit to Detroit last week. AutoTrader Group is based in Atlanta.
Google, Cars.com and DealerRater offer consumer reviews of dealerships with up to five stars for an outstanding experience. The average at Cars.com is about 4.5 stars, said a spokeswoman for the site.
Recent research shows that Internet reviews can play a role in store selection by car buyers.
Volkswagen of America, for example, found that VW dealerships with average scores on Google reviews of four stars or better received 32 percent more traffic to their Web sites from Google searches than those with one or two stars.
AutoTrader's Schwartz said details of how the site will rate dealerships are still being worked out. He said AutoTrader will likely blend ratings from multiple review sites to arrive at an aggregate star rating.
"I feel we should be agnostic and have an open architecture where a number of ratings are used. I don't think we should be tied to just one," Schwartz said.
Today, AutoTrader.com offers shoppers links to dealership reviews on other sites. AutoTrader.com had 17.7 million unique visitors in July, an all-time high.
Ratings and reviews can be controversial for sites that present them.
Google, for instance, unilaterally deleted thousands of customer reviews a year ago from the Google pages of dealerships across the country because the reviews were deemed of questionable legitimacy.
Edmunds.com, another third-party vehicle-research site, recently sued a Texas review site after alleging the company attempted to post phony reviews about dealerships.
Many dealerships hire vendors to help generate, monitor and troubleshoot customer reviews.