Traffic to dealership Web sites and vehicle shopping sites has surged this summer, foreshadowing growing auto sales through at least mid-October, says Dataium, which monitors auto Web site activity.
Unique visitors in July to the 7,300 dealer Web sites that Dataium monitors more than doubled compared with July 2012, and inventory searches more than quadrupled, said Will Perry, Dataium director of business intelligence.
Shoppers who visit a dealership Web site after researching vehicles on third-party car sites are far along in the buying process, Perry said.
"When you get to a dealership Web site, you've honed in on what you're looking for," Perry said. "We'll continue to see sales ratchet up."
The surge will keep sales strong for at least 45 days, he said.
Large shopping sites, such as AutoTrader.com, also are seeing visits spike. In July, AutoTrader.com logged 17.7 million unique visitors, a July record.
Perry said the hot auto market, generally attractive vehicle pricing and shopper comfort with online sites are fueling traffic.
AutoTrader.com sees surging online traffic translating into strong sales through the fourth quarter.
John Kovac, vice president of marketing for AutoTrader Group, said traffic often slows in July. But consumers are still in a car-buying mood, and AutoTrader has tried to get them to the site with aggressive advertising and marketing through the first half of the year, he said.
Dealer.com, a digital marketing and Web site vendor, said visitor traffic to the nearly 9,900 dealer sites it monitors rose 21 percent in July compared with July 2012. Total visits to new- and used-car dealers reached 51.7 million in July.
U.S. sales stayed brisk in July despite some spot parts shortages at auto plants. The industry posted a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 15.8 million in July, compared with June's 15.9 million. In August the rate hit 16.1 million, the highest since November 2007.
Dataium's Perry said Internet leads in July -- instances of shoppers contacting a dealership to seek information -- also surged. They increased 85 percent year over year.
Those shoppers typically are even closer to a purchase than those who just visit a dealership Web site, he said.
Dealer Web traffic stayed strong in August. Through Aug. 22, Perry said, the number of unique visitors rose 71 percent from a year earlier, and inventory searches rose 139 percent.
That's good news for future vehicle sales. Perry said: "I don't see this slowing down." c