March 2, 2007, 12:00 AM

Kia tops the list of best auto manufacturers` sites is the most useful manufacturer web site for new vehicle shopping, according to a J.D. Power and Associates study that measures the usefulness of sites and concentrates on appearance, speed, navigation and information/content. is the most useful manufacturer’s web site for new vehicle shopping, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

A new J.D. Power study measures the usefulness of manufacturers’ web sites during the new vehicle shopping process and concentrates on appearance, speed, navigation and information/content.

Kia ranks highest with an index score of 868 on a 1,000-point scale-a four-point improvement from the previous study, which was released in June.

“Providing a satisfying experience to all site shoppers, no matter what information they desire, is one of the most challenging site design tasks for manufacturers,” says Steve Witten, executive director of marketing/media research at J.D. Power. “Kia provides straightforward navigation, light page weights for quick site speed and combines text and images throughout the site to clearly demonstrate its models’ capabilities and functionality.”

Hummer, which ranked highest in the June study, Mazda, Honda and Toyota, respectively, follow Kia in the rankings. Both Hummer and Kia have ranked among the top 10 manufacturers’ web sites five consecutive times.

“While Hummer’s site design is completely different from Kia’s, using rich videos to demonstrate capabilities, vibrant images throughout the site and a detailed ‘build a vehicle’ tool, both manufacturers have created sites that consistently satisfy their specific shoppers,” says Witten.

Across all manufacturer web sites, the industry average of 834 is down four points from the June study, ending an increasingly positive trend in industry usability since 2004. The negative impact of incorporating advanced technology to the detriment of site speed has affected the industry average, according to J.D. Power.

“Clearly, some manufacturer web sites appear to have gotten ahead of their shoppers’ capabilities, forcing technology onto shoppers who just aren’t ready for it yet,” says Witten. “Knowing your shoppers and their technological capabilities and expectations should be one of the first steps in site design. The incorporation of Flash and videos into a site can negatively impact a shopper’s experience if the site gets ahead of their capability curve or improperly implements the technology.”

The study continues to demonstrate that the more useful a manufacturer’s web site is, the more traffic it is likely to drive to dealerships. Offering satisfying online shopping experiences to more shoppers has made manufacturers’ web sites a key destination for shoppers researching new vehicles, says J.D. Power.

“Looking forward, some manufacturers will have to take a more conservative approach to their site design, allowing manufacturers with technologically advanced shoppers to be more aggressive in testing new design tactics until they become mainstream,” says Witten. The J.D. Power study is based on evaluations by 11,280 new vehicle shoppers who indicated they would be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months.

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