One in five in-market consumers surveyed said they would buy a vehicle over the internet if such a service were available.
This is according to a Capgemini study, Cars Online 07/08, reports MarketingCharts (via ResearchRecap).
In 2001, that proportion was just 2 percent, Capgemini said.
Capgemini's ninth annual automotive study explores retail trends in the automotive industry, focusing on consumer buying behavior, environmental issues, web use, lead management and customer loyalty.
Nearly 2,600 consumers were surveyed in five countries: US, UK, France, Germany and China.
Among the findings of "Cars Online 07/08":
- The internet is at the top of the list of information sources for consumers when researching car purchases - 80 percent of those surveyed now use the web - but the way it is being used is changing.
- Search engines, automotive blogs and web forums have become key information sources for vehicle buyers who are turning to user-generated websites to obtain a more objective view.
- 29 percent of web users referred to consumer-to-consumer sites when researching information, up from 21 percent a year ago.
- 78 percent of respondents rely on search engines to do research.
- Moreover, consumers are rejecting traditional information websites - the most popular information source two years ago - in favor of manufacturer websites, which are now the most-frequented source for information.
- Consumers tend to first visit manufacturer sites, then turn to user-generated content for reviews.
- The generation gap is narrowing in web usage, with almost half of consumers 50 and older visiting manufacturer sites, a proportion similar to that of the 18-34 age group.
"Consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about vehicles as web sophistication grows, often putting them one step ahead of dealerships and automotive companies," said Nick Gill, Global Leader, Automotive Sector, Capgemini.
"Though it's difficult to predict exactly how the online channel will develop, there is clearly an untapped opportunity that merits closer investigation; companies seeking to capitalize on online sales should re-evaluate their channel strategy."
Other key findings from Cars Online 07/08:
Consumers are going "green"
- Over a quarter of consumers currently own or lease a fuel-efficient vehicle, and half said they are planning to buy or seriously considering a fuel-efficient vehicle.
- European consumers were more likely than those in the US or China to cite environmental impact as a primary factor influencing their buying decisions.
- More respondents in China and the US pointed to fuel economy as influencing their decisions.
Vehicle buyers want information fast
- As web usage grows, consumers are becoming more demanding: 34 percent of European and US consumers say they expect to receive a response to a web inquiry within four hours, up from 30 percent last year.
- If they don't get their response fast enough, half of the respondents say they would look for a new dealer.
- 25 percent say they would look for a new manufacturer or both a new dealer and a new manufacturer.
Personalized communications impact repurchase decisions
- Two-thirds of those asked said personalized post-sale communications from a dealer or manufacturer would make them more likely to buy from that company.
- Many are willing to share information with automakers and dealers:
- 70 percent said they would be willing to share information about their future vehicle preferences.
- 68 percent would share their vehicle buying history.
- 56 percent would share information about their future purchasing intention.