40 Percent of New Car Shoppers Use 'Net

More new-car shoppers are using the Internet to find automotive information, increasing from 25% in 1998 to 40% during the first quarter of 1999, according to a study conducted by J. D. Power & Associates. The research firm predicted that number will be more than 65% of shoppers by the end of next year.

The 1999 New Autoshopper.com study said more than 5 million buyers will use the Internet for information to make car purchases this year. The average Internet shopper visits six automotive sites, spending more than four hours researching information, J. D. Powers said.

Out of the 3,200 buyers surveyed, one-third crossed at least one car off their list after finding information online, J. D. Powers said. That spells bad news for manufacturers and retailers, as customers narrow their choices at home rather than coming out for test drives, the research firm said. In addition, if a vehicle has any problems, it will be posted online, J. D. Powers added.

While there is optimism surrounding car buying on the Internet, shoppers prefer not to do their financing through the Internet and won't return to it for help with car maintenance, J. D. Power said.

Other findings from the Agoura Hills, Calif., firm included the following:

--More people are buying their cars through online buying services, jumping 1.1% in 1998 to 2.7% this year. Autobytel.com led the pack, accounting for 45% of all new vehicles sold online.

--Kelley Blue Book is the most frequently visited automotive site, with 50% of visitors gathering information.

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