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J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Most Useful Manufacturer Web Site for New-Vehicle Shopping

SEE ALSO:Unbiased and Complete Vehicle Buyers Guides by Make Overall Manufacturer Web Site Usability Declines for the First Time Since 2004
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., Jan. 22 -- is the most useful manufacturer Web site for new-vehicle shopping, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study(SM) (MWES) -- Wave 1 released today.
The semi-annual study measures the usefulness of manufacturer Web sites during the new-vehicle shopping process. New-vehicle shoppers evaluate Web sites in four key areas: 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 2006.
"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," said Steve Witten, executive director of marketing/media research at J.D. Power and Associates. "Kia has accomplished this task and scores significantly higher than the industry average in all four areas measured in MWES. 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 previous study, Mazda, Honda and Toyota, respectively, follow Kia in the rankings. Both HUMMER and Kia have ranked among the top 10 manufacturer 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," said Witten.
Across all manufacturer Web sites, the industry average of 834 is down four points from the previous wave of the study, ending a positive increasing trend in industry usability since 2004. The negative impact of incorporating advanced technology to the detriment of site speed has affected the industry average. Seven of the nine manufacturer Web sites that were redesigned since the prior wave of the study fell significantly in the MWES speed measure, which identifies shopper perceptions of a site's speed. These seven sites also have incorporated more Flash technology on their home pages or throughout their sites than in the previous wave.
"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," said 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 Web site is, the more traffic it is likely to drive to dealerships. Offering satisfying online shopping experiences to more shoppers has made manufacturer Web sites a key destination for shoppers researching new vehicles.
"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," said Witten. "After all, the objective of a manufacturer Web site is to drive shoppers to the dealership and sell more vehicles, not necessarily to have the most cutting-edge Web site in the industry."
The 2007 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study -- Wave 1 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.
Manufacturer Web Site Ranking
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

Kia 868
Mazda 864
Honda 859
Toyota 853
Jeep 852
Acura 850
BMW 850
Suzuki 848
Land Rover 846
Chevrolet 843
Dodge 841
Saab 840
Hyundai 839
Lexus 836
Chrysler 835
Nissan 835
Mercury 834
Industry Average 834
Porsche 833
Cadillac 832
Pontiac 832
Saturn 832
GMC 831
Lincoln 830
Volvo 830
Subaru 827
Jaguar 826
Scion 825
Mercedes-Benz 824
Volkswagen 824
Buick 822
Ford 818
Infiniti 810
MINI 805
Mitsubishi 805
Audi 768

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