WESTLAKE VILLAGEJ.D. Power and Associates and Compete Inc.’s 2011 Website Performance Tools Report revealed that Facebook refers nearly as much new-vehicle buyer traffic to automaker Websites as do third-party sites like AutoTrader.com, Cars.com and Edmunds.com.

The report showed that 6 percent of new-vehicle buyers who visit an OEM site visited Facebook immediately prior to visiting an automaker (OEM) site. This is commensurate with traffic levels driven by third-party automotive content provider Websites such as Edmunds.com (8 percent) and AOL Autos (4 percent), according to J.D. Power.

Among those who visit third-party and/or OEM sites, Facebook refers three times as many new-vehicle buyers to OEM or third-party automotive sites as general Internet population traffic (6 percent vs. 2 percent, respectively), according to the report.

“Facebook visits are a regular part of the Web-savvy consumer’s life, and we see the proof of this through visitation patterns of new-vehicle buyers,” said Arianne Walker, director of marketing and media research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Manufacturers and third-party sites need to take advantage of Facebook’s popularity by continuing to invest in their presence on the site and determine how best to leverage its influence, even if the advertising model is atypical."

Among new-vehicle buyers who visit an OEM site or a third-party site, nearly one-third visit Google’s search engine prior to going to an OEM or third-party automotive site, according to the report. The referral volume from Google’s search engine is notably higher than referral volumes generated by any other search engine. In fact, other search engines included in the study refer less than 10 percent of new-vehicle buyer traffic to OEM and third-party sites.

Additionally, among new-vehicle buyers, the study found that the automotive sites receiving the most visit prior to purchase are: Edmunds.com (7 percent), KBB.com (7 percent), Fordvehicles.com (3 percent) and Toyota.com (3 percent).

The J.D. Power and Associates/Compete 2011 Website Performance Tools results are based on clickstream behavior of new-vehicle buyers who purchased a vehicle between Oct. 1, 2008 and March 31, 2011.