CHICAGO — Despite the economic climate, online retailer Cars.com has reported an all-time record number of leads to advertising dealers in the month of February. E-mails, phone calls and Internet chat conversations were up 3 percent over February 2008.
"In a month where automotive sales were weak, these numbers tell us that those shoppers who are in-market are going online to decide what and where to buy," said Cars.com president Mitch Golub. "The Internet is more than ever a critical step in the shopping process and the most efficient marketing spend for a dealer. At this time in the economy, Cars.com is thrilled to continue to drive the highest levels of value for our dealer partners and to deliver the tools and products they need to
engage with in-market, ready-to-buy shoppers."
Cars.com noted that car shopping activity for used cars and specifically certified pre-owned vehicles has been a key factor in driving the record leads on the site. Year to date, leads on certified pre-owned vehicles are up 24 percent over 2008. The company offers a number of advertising programs designed to help dealers connect with its audience of in-market buyers.
"As shoppers in this market seek quality and reliability without a new-car price, it is more important than ever for dealers to aggressively market their certified inventories," said Dennis Galbraith, vice president of advertising products at Cars.com. "We work with nearly every manufacturer to help their dealers successfully do this on Cars.com."
The company is also working to connect dealers with ready-to-buy shoppers through the launch of new tools such as online chat. Cars.com added its DealerChat product last month as a no-cost option for its advertising packages to help dealers actively engage with car buyers searching their listings.
"Already we are seeing fantastic results," Galbraith said. "We’ve had many dealers tell us they sold cars through DealerChat within a few hours of activating it."