Autobytel Inc., an Internet new car buying service, announced the cars and trucks that were requested most byits online shoppers during the second salesquarter of 2003. According to the company’s second quarter Consumer Choice report, covering April through June,domestic brands enjoyed a spike in popularity among online shoppers. With domestic vehicle sales flat industry-wide in Q2, the Autobytel report suggests that strong online sales have been a significant contributor to U.S. automakers’ market share during the second quarter.According to the company, among Autobytel’s most popular vehicles overall, the numberof shoppers requesting domestic makes rose nearly 15 percent vs.Q1, while those requesting imports rose just over 4 percent. Three of the top five (and nine of the top 15) makes that enjoyedthe biggest sequential quarter percentage gains in online requests were domestic brands"There are many factors at play, but the relationshipbetween increased Internet marketing spending and increasedsales is becoming clear," said Autobytel president and CEOJeffrey Schwartz. "Several of our biggest Q2 gainers haveemployed a relatively Internet-heavy marketing mix, and ithas paid off." Schwartz noted that GM is far and away thebiggest Internet marketer in the auto industry, and is thesecond biggest Internet marketer among all U.S. businesses.Meanwhile, Ford has recently become among the first OEMs toparticipate in Autobytel’s Dynamic ContentPlacement (DCP) marketing platform. DCP is designed to be asynthesis of auto marketing and auto information,automatically selecting from thousands of Ford model datastatements to strategically present objective, helpfulinformation about Ford cars and trucks to online shoppersbased on their specific research decisions.Second quarter industry sales tallies reveal the return ofthe big, more expensive trucks and SUVs after a slow firstquarter, possibly driven by post-war gas price declines and aggressive domestic incentives that are essentially enabling consumers to make bigger-ticket purchases, says the company. These factors may have been even more pronounced online than off, as indicatedby Autobytel’s results. The GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, and Ford Explorer all garnered major Q2 vs. Q1gains, as did the Cadillac Escalade, which was a major driver behind a 106 percent increase in the number of Autobytelconsumer requests for domestic luxury vehicles.According to the company, although imports were still requested more than domestics inall but the truck and SUV categories, domestics gained significant ground in several import strongholds. Ford’s centennial marketing and aggressive pricing, for example,paid off with strong showings for not only the F-150 and Mustang, but also the Focus, which gained 16 percent more requestsin Q2 versus Q1. The Pontiac Vibe and Hyundai Tiburon,meanwhile, enjoyed robust growth in the compact category.Overall, requests for domestic cars in the passengercategory grew 45 percent, while declining 6 percent for imports. Domesticgrowth also outpaced import growth in the sports car, luxury and minivan categories.The company says the flip side of the big SUV comeback is a marked decline in fuel-efficient vehicle requests (including hybrids anddiesels)—virtually across the board. While the Toyota Prius’ fall-off could be attributed to consumers’ anticipation of the 2004 version (due this fall), the drop in Honda CivicHybrid and VW Jetta TDI, both of which had enjoyed majorspikes in Q1 requests, suggests that online consumers, like their offline counterparts, are currently moving away fromfuel-efficient cars.In addition to shedding light on online consumer trends asthey unfold, Autobytel’s Q2 tally also tracks the frontrunners in the race for the 2003 Autobytel Consumer ChoiceAwards™, which will be determined at the end of the salesyear. About Autobytel Inc.
Autobytel Inc., an Internet automotivemarketing services company, says it helps retailers sell cars andmanufacturers build brands through marketing, advertisingand CRM (customer relationship management) tools andprograms. The company owns and operates the automotivewebsites Autobytel.com, Autoweb.com, Carsmart.com andAutoSite.com, as well as AIC (Automotive InformationCenter), a provider of automotive marketing data andtechnology.