Online Auto Classifieds Strong In '05

The decline of automotive print ad revenue was one of the most significant developments to affect the auto ad market in 2005, according to a panel of experts and executives surveyed by Classified Intelligence and Belden Associates, per a report released Wednesday.

Mitch Golub, president of Cars.com, told Classified Intelligence that car makers were spending up to 25 percent of their ad budgets online, while local dealer groups spent up to one-third of their budgets online.

But, despite the shift to the Web, most executives predicted that newspapers will continue to benefit from car ads for at least the next several years. AutoTrader.com president and CEO Chip Perry told Classified Intelligence that print "will continue to be the backbone for a number of years."

Opinions were mixed regarding the impact of search marketing as a driver of traffic. Perry characterized the impact of search marketing as "modest." But Golub said that ad agencies he works with see huge potential in search marketing.

The report also stated that Internet sales accounted for 7.5 percent of car sales this year, up from 5.7 percent last year. Dealer sites averaged 29 leads a month for new vehicles, and 25 leads a month for used vehicles.

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