Acura, Porsche Lead As Automakers Buff Up Sites

There was a time, not terribly long ago, when automakers had one thing in common they could commiserate about: they all had godawful Web sites that were about as engaging as a carpet warehouse. Now the average automaker Web site is rich-media central, with cars you can "drive" and manipulate, movies you can watch, social media microsites, branded-entertainment channels, vehicle configurations and dealership inventory. And some of it is on scalable platforms that allow you to dive in from different screens, and devices, fixed and mobile. 

Now, instead of commiserating, automakers are battling it out. Who is winning? Acura and Porsche, who tie for tops in J.D. Power & Associates' Manufacturer Website Evaluation Satisfaction Study.

The firm says the semiannual study, which is in its 14th year, measures the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites during the new-vehicle shopping process by examining information/content, navigation, appearance and speed. Among some top-level findings are that table ownership is up 145% among new-vehicle shoppers from last year; almost 63% of desktop users find what they are looking for using the search function on the manufacturer's web site, and number of automakers now have site serving automatically configured to the target screen and device.  



The firm says currently automakers send tablet users to the OEM desktop site or to a separate site designed for tablets. The responsive design, which automatically modifies websites to accommodate any device and screen size, is a longer-term project. "[It] requires a big commitment, requiring a major overhaul of the site, including extensive development time and cost by manufacturers," said Arianne Walker, senior director of media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power. She said that during the study fielding period, Lexus's responsive design website was already active and Mercedes-Benz introduced responsive design on one of its model pages. "This is not just a trend in automotive, it is being deployed by businesses in other industries, including global quick-service coffee chains, consumer and enterprise software manufacturers and newspapers."

In the study Dodge follows Acura and Porsche in the rankings, and then comes Infiniti Jaguar, Jeep, Fiat, Smart, Land Rover, Hyundai, Kia and Ram. The bottom ten, in descending order, are VW, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Buick, BMW, Toyota, GMC, Subaru, Volvo and Audi.

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