Editor’s Notebook: Well-Informed Consumers

Editor’s Notebook: Well-Informed Consumers

New car sales figures are in the news a lot these days, especially in light of the Big 3’s poor performance and as analysts try to predict total vehicle sales, import vs. domestic new car sales figures, and whether Toyota will outpace GM in new car sales this year.

Kelly Blue Book’s website has put an interesting twist on the new car sales battleground by publishing a list of the Top 20 most researched new vehicles, and correlating that visitation to specific vehicles’ information on the web has become a leading indicator of monthly sales for car manufacturers.

According to Kelly Blue Book, kbb.com had more than 140 million unique visitors in 2006, a 12% increase over the prior year. Interestingly, more than half of the vehicles listed in the Top 20 ranking have experienced a sales increase, pointing to Internet research activity as an indicator of how new car sales will fare.

Honda and Toyota did particularly well, capturing nine out of the Top 10 slots in the most researched vehicles of 2006 listing (in descending order: Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Mustang).

The number one researched model, the Honda Civic, experienced a 2.7% vehicle sales increase last year — 316,638 vehicles sold vs. 308,415 in 2005. Similarly, the second most researched vehicle, the Toyota Camry, experienced a 3.9% increase in 2006 with vehicles sales reaching 448,445, up from 431,703 in 2005.

So, what does all of this mean to you?

  1. Vehicle owners are Internet savvy and want to be well-informed when making purchasing decisions. That same quest for information likely carries over into their automotive service activity. So be mindful that when you educate customers about the merits of preventive maintenance, they become your most promising prospects for routine vehicle maintenance and automotive service.

  2. Those consumers who bought vehicles in last year’s Top 10 listing (see list in the fourth paragraph), are looking to get the most “value” from their purchases, based on their research and analysis activity. Remember that you will win loyal customers when you increase the value of their automotive repair experience. So take the time to explain and showcase both the tangible and intangible benefits offered by your shop.

Over-deliver on your customers expectations, and you’ll give them many reasons to return to your shop for service.

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