A greater number of dealerships this year have Web sites that allow shoppers to view inventory, make sales and service appointments and fill out finance forms, according to a survey by the National Automobile Dealers Association. NADA's annual survey of 375 dealerships found a significant jump in the percentage of dealerships that interact with the consumer in a qualitative way, said Paul Taylor, the association's chief economist.

"The more qualitative use of the Internet clearly is one important thing that dealerships need to do to maintain sales volume in what is a more competitive environment and an environment in which the consumer is becoming more particular about price and convenience," Taylor told Automotive News.

NADA has been urging dealers to make their dealership Web sites more interactive, he said. This year, 75.5 percent of the dealers surveyed said their dealership Web sites now allow consumers to schedule a service appointment online, up from 62.7 percent in 2005. Likewise, 68.3 percent of the dealers said they now offer online scheduling for sales appointments, up from 52.4 percent last year. More dealers are providing consumers with the ability to fill out some finance forms online from their home. According to the survey, 75.5 percent of the dealers offer this service, compared with 61.3 percent in 2005.