Kia ranks highest in an improving field of automotive manufacturer Web sites, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study(SM)(MWES) Wave 2 released Dec. 18. While the Kia site has been among the top seven most useful sites in nearly every MWES study over the past four years, this is the first time Kia has ranked highest. The three manufacturer Web sites that follow Kia in the rankings -- Hyundai, Honda and Cadillac, respectively -- demonstrate dramatic improvements over their 2002 Wave 2 study rankings. "Kia's top ranking demonstrates the continuous improvement process at is paying off," said Dennis Galbraith, senior director of research at J.D. Power and Associates. "Kia has explored a variety of innovative approaches over the years, rather than simply reacting to what other manufacturers are doing." Manufacturer Web sites have improved remarkably since the study was first published in 2000. Much has changed, and with that change manufacturer sites have experienced a virtual explosion in sales lead production to their dealer networks. On average, dealers are receiving 75 percent more online leads from manufacturer sites than they did in 2002. "Compared to the Wave 1 results published in the spring of 2003, the most useful sites are meeting shoppers' needs even better today, and the least useful sites are falling further behind," said Galbraith. "Site designers need to know their customers. Highly useful sites call attention to the information that most impacts their target audience. If the most relevant shopping tools are comprehensive and easy to find, the shopper's experience with the site will be enhanced." Well-designed Web sites continue to be particularly effective in driving traffic to dealerships. Among survey respondents who evaluated a manufacturer's site, 62 percent who rate the site as "outstanding" are more likely to test-drive a vehicle from that make, compared to only 40 percent of those who rate the site lower. The 2003 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study is designed to measure usefulness based on the relative importance of site design, features and usage. Wave 2 of the study includes the experiences of more than 8,400 Internet users who intend to purchase a vehicle within the next two years. About J.D. Power and Associates Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually.