Kia.com Takes Top Spot Among Auto Sites

Kia site screenshotKia.com outranked the sites of BMW, Lexus, Ford and even Honda in terms of new car shopper satisfaction, according to J.D. Power and Associates. The market research and services firm conducted its second "Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study" (MWES) for 2008, and Kia's site took the top spot.

J.D. Power surveyed nearly 11,500 consumers who indicated they would be in the market for a new car within the next 24 months, and asked them to perform various tasks on the manufacturer's Web sites. Then the firm gauged their satisfaction in terms of how easy it was to get information and the site's speed and navigation scheme, as well as its overall appearance.

Kia.com scored well in all four categories, earning a score of 872 (out of 1,000). The auto manufacturer beat out Hummer.com--which took the top spot in the January MWES--by almost 20 points. Ford and Mazda followed closely behind, with scores of 871 and 870, respectively. In contrast, Pontiac, Audi and Scion came in at the bottom of the pack, with scores of 816, 807 and 802, respectively.

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Still, according to Arianne Walker, J.D. Power and Associates' director of marketing and media research, the fact that all 36 of the sites that were studied snagged at least 800 points showed that auto manufacturers were doing a better job of satisfying consumers online.

The secrets to Kia's success stem from the auto manufacturer's focus on crafting a site that loads quickly and is easy to navigate. "Kia's site is very straightforward," Walker said. "There's not as much rich media content as some of the others, but that's seemingly not as necessary for Kia shoppers." Kia.com's score improved by nine points from the last study, and the company's attention to the basics has earned it the number one spot in terms of shopper satisfaction in four out of the last 10 biannual MWES reports.

And while the MWES did not study consumer response to online video in particular, Walker said that there was definitely a trend toward more manufacturers including video on their site. "Some have done it more successfully than others," Walker said. "When people add video just for the sake of adding it, it doesn't resonate well with consumers. It's critical that auto manufacturers place the video in a way that it helps answer shoppers' questions."

When Web sites feature video clips of anti-lock braking systems, safety features, or other vehicle aspects in action, Walker said it is very useful. In contrast, "just having a tab somewhere that says 'get a video,' or having a gallery of commercials available, isn't as important to the shopper," she said.

J.D. Power and Associates, a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, has been conducting MWES studies based on this particular 1,000-point index model since 2001. The company first began measuring consumer satisfaction with Web sites in 1998.

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