But while online reviews grow, many dealerships aren't encouraging them or managing them.
EXteres Corp., which provides online marketing and reputation-management services to dealers, found that 36 percent of dealerships have 15 or fewer reviews on Edmunds.com, DealerRater, Yelp, Google, Cars.com and Citysearch combined. Last year, 53 percent of dealerships had fewer than 15 reviews.
To manage reviews, R.C. Olsen Cadillac in Woburn, Mass., and the Power of Bowser dealership group in Pleasant Hills, Pa., work with Dominion Dealer Solutions.
Holz Motors in Hales Corners, Wis., has an agreement with Digital Air Strike. Magnussen's Auburn Toyota in Auburn, Calif., and Gullo Toyota of Conroe have partnered with eXteres.
In Wisconsin, Holz Motors had just a few reviews at several review sites before working with Digital Air Strike.
Without the review management help, "if someone posted a bad review, I might not even see it," said Don Zielinski, Holz Motors Internet sales manager.
Now, the dealership has almost 300 reviews on Cars.com and over 900 on its website.
Reputation management companies email surveys to customers after their dealership visit. If the customer rates the dealership at least four stars, vendors direct them to a review site, such as Google, Yelp, Cars.com, DealerRater and Edmunds, or the dealership's website in some cases.
If customers give the dealership three stars or fewer, either the survey ends or directs them to a "feedback" page.
Dealers receive alerts when customers post negative reviews on third-party sites or on a review page. Some vendors and sites hold negative reviews for a specific length of time or place them on a feedback page so dealers can mediate.
"We can interrupt negative reviews by seeing [feedback] before [customers] post it elsewhere," said Erin Gallawa, communications director at Magnussen's Auburn Toyota.