For Kris MacDonald and for most auto dealerships in Utah, the most productive source of sales prospects is a local Internet shopping site owned by the Mormon Church.
Business from KSL.com accounts for half of all used-vehicle sales made at Murdock Automotive Group's two largest Hyundai stores near Salt Lake City, said MacDonald, the stores' Internet sales director. The site also accounts for 20 percent of new-vehicle sales.
"We get a crazy amount of traffic from them," MacDonald said of KSL.com.
The influence of this one local media source is virtually unparalleled in other major markets, said Oliver Young, marketing director of Young Automotive Group and son of dealer principal Spencer Young.
"It's a phenomenon. Everybody in the market knows KSL," Young said.
KSL.com is an online media site with a giant classified section, including cars, that resembles a Utah version of Craigslist. It grew out of another property owned by the Mormon Church, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, KSL-TV.
People within 500 miles of Salt Lake City use KSL.com to shop for everything from tools to farm equipment, Young said.
Each month the site attracts about 5.3 million unique visitors and 285 million page views, said Eric Bright, vice president of e-commerce at the for-profit unit of the church that manages KSL.com. The Mormon Church is known officially as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About three years ago, auto dealers began in earnest to list used-car inventory on the site. And a year ago KSL.com began allowing dealers to list new-car inventory, Bright said.
It has been a bonanza for dealers such as Young and Murdock.
MacDonald said the large Mormon population around Salt Lake City is fiercely loyal to KSL.com and view it as a trusted source for doing business. Bright estimated that about 75 percent of Utah's 2.2 million people are Mormon.
Young, who is Mormon, said he believes that people flock to the site because they get results, and the site does a good job of policing scammers.
Bright said the site attracts about 700,000 unique car shoppers each month who look at an eye-popping 40 million pages of inventory.