Multiple Platforms, Screen Sizes Drive Major Changes in Automakers’ Websites

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Arianne Walker

The explosion of tablet ownership among new-vehicle shoppers in 2013 and the different approaches that shoppers now use to access information during the new-vehicle shopping process is challenging automakers to improve website functionality across platforms, according to our 2013 Manufacturer Website Evaluations Study (MWES)–Wave 2.

Results in Wave 2 of the semiannual 2013 MWES find that tablet ownership has climbed by 145% from just 20% of new-vehicle shoppers in Wave 1 of the 2012 MWES, to nearly one-half (49%) of nearly 10,200 new-vehicle shoppers in Wave 2 of the 2013 MWES.

Among the tablet users, overall satisfaction with the usefulness of auto manufacturer websites during the shopping process remains nearly flat at 815 (on a 1,000-point scale) vs. 818 points in Wave 1 of the 2013 study. Average satisfaction with automakers’ websites by desktop PC users is slightly higher—823—since most manufacturer websites are designed specifically for a desktop. Wave 2 finds that satisfaction among tablet users is lower in two of the four key measures: navigation and speed.* Continue reading ›

Large Pickups, Compact Crossovers Bolster April U.S. Auto Sales

14725154-car-dealership-woman-receiving-car-key-from-salesmanU.S. light-vehicle sales in April 2013 were set to reach 1.286 million unit sales, which would be up 4% from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis,* according to an update from J.D. Power and Associates and its strategic partner, LMC Automotive. The sales rate in April would translate to a slightly lower 14.9 million-unit seasonally-adjusted selling pace.

Early automaker reports indicate that sales (unadjusted) will rise about 9% from a year ago, partly due to higher demand for large pickups and compact crossovers.

The Detroit Three led sales gains with double-digit increases from April 2012. They outpaced two of their top-volume Japan-based rivals—Toyota and Honda Groups. In early results, the third major Japanese automaker, Nissan Group, reported one of the best year-over-year gains—sales were up 23% on an unadjusted basis from April 2012.

Demand was particularly strong for large pickups with improvement in the housing and construction markets. The resilience of the U.S. consumer’s pent-up demand also bolstered sales, according to Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. He said consumer spending remains remarkably stronger than the economy suggests it should be. Continue reading ›

U.S. Auto Sales Reach Post-Great Recession High Mark in March

Salesperson and Couple at DealershipSales of new cars and light trucks in the United States may hit their best mark in March since before the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, despite news about the fiscal cliff and sequester in Washington, D.C. Economic news was more positive with better employment figures in March, which is giving car buyers renewed confidence.

 New-car shoppers continued to replace aging vehicles and took advantage of easier credit including low-interest-rate loans. A proliferation of new and refreshed models—including popular crossovers and large pickups—also enticed buyers into showrooms. Discounts on large pickup models that are being replaced by new 2014 models as well as a recovery in the housing sector helped prime the market for large pickups. It should also be noted that March typically is a strong month for the auto business.

 In early reports, J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and its strategic partner LMC Automotive report that automakers sold 1.45 million units in the third month of 2013. If sales are adjusted for one less selling day in March this year, deliveries rose 7.4% from March 2012, which translates to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15.2 million units. Continue reading ›

Young Buyers are Attracted to Import Compacts in 2012

2012 Dodge Charger SRT8Import car models—especially compacts—attracted the highest percentages of younger buyers (ages 16-35) in the past calendar year, based on analysis of real-time transaction data from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN).

Unlike 2011, however, one of the 10 models with the highest percentages of young buyers in 2012 was a domestic, full-size model from Fiat-Chrysler—the Dodge Charger. Also, two of the 10 models were compact premium models from the Honda Group—Acura’s new entry-level ILX and the current TSX compact premium conventional models. All three of these new additions to the young buyer list had suggested retail prices that were just above $30,000. Continue reading ›

Shoppers Consume Information on OEM Websites with Multiple Devices

Arianne Walker

In the past 6 months, there has been a major shift in the way new-vehicle shoppers are consuming information found on the Internet, according to results in Wave 2 of our semi-annual 2012 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study (MWES). We find that a higher percentage of new-vehicle shoppers now own tablets compared with January when Wave 1 of the 2012 study was released (35% vs. 20%, respectively).

In Wave 2 of the study, we see that more automakers are trying to meet the needs of tablet shoppers in addition to traditional desktop PC shoppers, often with one website. Since more than one-third of shoppers are using tablets, their expectations continue to change, which makes it increasingly important for OEMs to incorporate specific navigational elements to help these shoppers use their websites, regardless of the type of device being used.

Many automaker-sponsored websites have introduced content in a layout that places information below the illusory fold on the screen, so that visitors must scroll more to get that content. While this way of displaying information is acceptable to tablet users, it can be frustrating for desktop users. Continue reading ›

A Wide Array of Brands Produce Models that Delight Their Owners

David Amodeo

A baker’s dozen of nameplates produce models that earn the highest scores in their segments in each of the award categories in our 2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

Chevrolet receives three of the 22 segment awards—the most of any nameplate in the 2012 APEAL Study—and also the most APEAL awards for the General Motors flagship brand since 1997. Chevrolet models that receive segment awards include two small models and one large pickup: the Avalanche, Sonic and Volt.

Seven more nameplates included in the study each receive two segment awards for models with the highest index scores in their categories. In alphabetical order, the nameplates with top-ranked models in two segments are: Audi, Dodge, Ford, Kia, Mini, Nissan, and Porsche. Also receiving highest-ranking model awards at the segment level for one model each are: BMW, Infiniti, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen. Continue reading ›

APEAL Study: Premium, Non-Premium Brands Listen to Consumers

Raffi Festekjian

The bar continues to rise in terms of how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, according to results in our 2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, which is based on evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes by more than 74,000 new-vehicle buyers and lessees during the first 90 days of ownership.

This year, the industry improves by 7 points to earn an overall index score of 788 (on a 1,000-point scale) vs. 781 in 2011. In comparison to past years’ results, the industry average also rises 18 points compared with our 2008 APEAL Study, and represents the largest gain since 2009.

Results across the board are good for the industry. Every one of the 10 vehicle attribute areas analyzed improves from 2011, with the greatest advance being observed in fuel economy. Interestingly, the downsizing trend that we have observed also has had an impact on owner satisfaction with the fuel economy of buyers’ new vehicles. Nearly one-half (47%) of owners say gas mileage was one of the most important factors in choosing their new vehicle, up from 40% in 2011, according to study results. Continue reading ›

Automotive Landscape for OEMs, Dealers Remains a Little Bumpy but Bright

2012 International Automotive Roundtable Panel with Moderator Mike Jackson (right), AutoNation CEO and Chairman

Sales and marketing officials from General Motors Co., Fiat-Chrysler and Hyundai Groups joined NADA’s 2011 chairman and presented their viewpoints of important issues and answered questions during a panel discussion at the 2012 J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable earlier this month.

The following three posts include excerpts from a Q&A session about dealer allocation, fleet sales, leasing and more led by panel moderator Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation, the largest public automotive retailer in the United States.

Panel Members:

Alan Batey —Vice President, Chevrolet Sales and Service, General Motors Company

Reid A. Bigland —President & CEO, Dodge Car Brand & Head of U.S. Sales/President and CEO, Chrysler Canada, Chrysler Group LLC

Stephen W. Wade —President, Stephen Wade Auto Center and 2011 Chairman, National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)

Dave Zuchowski —Executive Vice President, National Sales, Hyundai Motor America

 Product Allocation Needs to Be as Equitable as Possible

Q: Mike Jackson: Does the panel believe that the manufacturer should limit the number of cars a single franchise can receive—a cap on quantity in any given market?

Dave: We look at it a different way because of our shortages. We’ve had dealers ask: Shouldn’t there be a minimum stocking effort so we have critical mass to represent the line? That’s something we are looking at. In terms of capping dealer availability, it works against the turn system. Continue reading ›

Performance Returns as a Mainstay in a Recovering Auto Industry

More than half a dozen mass-market and premium brands displayed models with higher-horsepower powertrains at this week’s L.A. Auto Show, many with the capability to hit speeds nearing 200 mph without limiters.

Ford introduced a new Shelby Mustang GT500 with an engine that exuded 650 horsepower.

• The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible will be equipped with a 580-horsepower supercharged V-8.

BMW showed one of its performance models, the M5, powered by its most powerful street engine—a 560-horsepower unit that can propel the M5 to 60 mph in 4 seconds, according to the automaker. Continue reading ›

Honda, Suzuki Receive Most Segment-Level Model Awards in Mexico Study

Honda and Suzuki brands each produce three of the models with the highest vehicle ownership satisfaction scores in the 10 award segments of the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Mexico Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study.SM In addition, models from (in alphabetical order) Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Toyota and Volkswagen brands rank among the top three in each award segment.Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates Continue reading ›