WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.More new-vehicle buyers are turning to third-party automotive Websites for information before making a purchase, according to the 2010 Web Site Performance Tools Report-Wave 1 conducted by J.D. Power and Associates and Compete Inc.

The report found that among the 77 percent of new-vehicle buyers who use the Internet in the shopping process, more than two-thirds (68 percent) visit at least one manufacturer Website in the six months leading up to purchase, while a larger percentage — nearly eight in 10 — visit at least one third-party website.

“Understanding the shopping patterns of new-vehicle buyers prior to purchase is key for both manufacturer and third party marketers seeking to secure the right ad placements, alliances and referral budgets,” said Arianne Walker, director of marketing and media research at J.D. Power and Associates.

In each of the six months preceding vehicle purchase, greater proportions of buyers visit third-party websites, compared with manufacturer websites, although this changes during the actual month of purchase. In the month of purchase, visitation to manufacturer websites increases to match visitation of third-party websites, with 31 percent of all new-vehicle buyers visiting each type of website.

“New-vehicle buyers are using both third-party and manufacturer websites at high rates in order to help them make informed decisions about purchasing a new vehicle,” said Walker. “Therefore, it is critical that automotive brands and marketers understand which types of information are being sought on the various types of websites.” 

Among buyers who visit third-party websites, inventory search is the most popular Website tool, with 25 percent of buyers accessing this type of information. Among buyers who visit manufacturer Websites, vehicle building tools are used most frequently (29 percent).

“It is important for manufacturers and third-party Websites to work together to provide shoppers with the most relevant information in the formats and locations they expect,” said Walker. “Understanding where shoppers go and what information they seek on those websites is critical in meeting shopper needs and providing a good experience.”

Among third-party Websites, AutoTrader.com, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book garner particularly high visitation rates from buyers overall.  Several third-party Websites are the first stop for buyers shopping online. Approximately 7 percent of new-vehicle buyers who use the Internet while shopping visit Edmunds before any other automotive Website. Individually, Ebay Motors and Kelley Blue Book are the first Websites visited by 6 percent of vehicle buyers shopping online.

Among manufacturer Websites, Ford, Honda and Toyota attract particularly high visitation rates. In addition, approximately 3 percent of all new-vehicle buyers who use the Internet while shopping start the process on the Honda brand Website.