September 24, 2004, 12:00 AM

Why auto research sites are putting the pedal to the metal on new features

The trend of more car dealers and third-party automotive research sites rolling out new comparison tools, enhanced images and more information reflects rising consumer demand for better ways to shop online, says Friedman-Swift Associates.


The fact that more third-party research sites are updating their pages with new interactive features that enable customers to more quickly and easily shop for a car online isn’t a surprise to at least one leading automotive retailing research firm.

“Dealers know that the Internet is here to stay and that shoppers are demanding more ways to research information online,” says Judy George, chief operating officer and lead researcher for Friedman-Swift Associates, a Cincinnati automotive and consumer research firm. “It’s a fact that one of every five cars sold starts with someone who began the process on the Internet.”

In just the past month, both and have introduced new interactive tools and programs to compare new car model prices and features. CarsDirect, which works with about 3,000 new and used car dealers, has a new portal,, which offers comparisons on more than 500 new vehicle models that are ranked from best to worst in 12 different categories, including price, resale value, safety and performance.

Meanwhile, the National Automobile Dealers Association, which publishes the N.A.D.A appraisal guides, one of the market’s biggest sources of information on vehicle valuations and other data, is updating with a number of interactive features, including online side-by-side vehicle comparison tools. Car buyers can select up to four vehicles they want to compare side-by-side or they can choose to have automatically select a `recommended` list of vehicles, which provides the shopper with a list of comparison vehicles with similar designs, pricing, features and specifications.

The trend that more dealers and third-party automotive research sites are rolling out better comparison tools, better images and more information reflects rising consumer demand for better ways to find and compare cars and begin the sales process online, says George. “Our research shows that these are features Internet shoppers have been expecting for at least two years,” she says.


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