Autobytel Inc., an Internet new car buying service, announced the cars and trucks that were requested most by its online shoppers during the second sales quarter 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 number of 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 enjoyed the biggest sequential quarter percentage gains in online requests were domestic brands "There are many factors at play, but the relationship between increased Internet marketing spending and increased sales is becoming clear," said Autobytel president and CEO Jeffrey Schwartz. "Several of our biggest Q2 gainers have employed a relatively Internet-heavy marketing mix, and it has paid off." Schwartz noted that GM is far and away the biggest Internet marketer in the auto industry, and is the second biggest Internet marketer among all U.S. businesses. Meanwhile, Ford has recently become among the first OEMs to participate in Autobytel’s Dynamic Content Placement (DCP) marketing platform. DCP is designed to be a synthesis of auto marketing and auto information, automatically selecting from thousands of Ford model data statements to strategically present objective, helpful information about Ford cars and trucks to online shoppers based on their specific research decisions. Second quarter industry sales tallies reveal the return of the big, more expensive trucks and SUVs after a slow first quarter, 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 indicated by Autobytel’s results. The GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, and Ford Explorer all garnered major Q2 vs. Q1 gains, as did the Cadillac Escalade, which was a major driver behind a 106 percent increase in the number of Autobytel consumer requests for domestic luxury vehicles. According to the company, although imports were still requested more than domestics in all 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 requests in Q2 versus Q1. The Pontiac Vibe and Hyundai Tiburon, meanwhile, enjoyed robust growth in the compact category. Overall, requests for domestic cars in the passenger category grew 45 percent, while declining 6 percent for imports. Domestic growth 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 and diesels)—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 Civic Hybrid and VW Jetta TDI, both of which had enjoyed major spikes in Q1 requests, suggests that online consumers, like their offline counterparts, are currently moving away from fuel-efficient cars. In addition to shedding light on online consumer trends as they unfold, Autobytel’s Q2 tally also tracks the front runners in the race for the 2003 Autobytel Consumer Choice Awards™, which will be determined at the end of the sales year. About Autobytel Inc.
Autobytel Inc., an Internet automotive marketing services company, says it helps retailers sell cars and manufacturers build brands through marketing, advertising and CRM (customer relationship management) tools and programs. The company owns and operates the automotive websites,, and, as well as AIC (Automotive Information Center), a provider of automotive marketing data and technology.