The Internet has taken control of the retail buying process in the Canadian auto industry, says a study by the world's largest online search engine. Google said Thursday that a recent study of buyers here revealed that the World Wide Web is the first and most used source for information in making an auto purchase and selecting a dealer.
The fall survey of 1,200 motorists who bought or leased new vehicles in the last year showed 85 per cent of them used the Internet at the start of the process; 74 per cent in the middle and 69 per cent tapped it at the end. Newspapers were the second most used source at the beginning and middle of the process, according to the survey.
At the end of the process, shoppers still relied on a visit to the dealership to get information or make a decision after using the Internet again.
Deepak Anand, auto account executive for Google Canada, said the use of the Internet now rivals the importance of a dealership's staff in buying a new vehicle.
Forty-two per cent of the buyers in the survey indicated that the Internet was extremely important while 36 per cent said dealership staff or a visit to the store was critical to them.
Anand added the findings underscore the need for manufacturers and dealers to build superior websites to attract consumers and keep them coming back.
Among its results, the survey found most shoppers started off the buying process by being undecided and willing to consider multiple auto brands.
"The Internet is a battleground for the undecided," Anand told a Google conference on the auto industry.
In illustrating the power of the Internet, he said dealership staff are now in a position where they may only get one opportunity in clinching a deal in a store because a shopper can simply turn to a wireless mobile device for directions to the nearest rival.
Meanwhile, Peter Sherman, product marketing manager for Google-owned YouTube, showed how simple, creative videos can attract millions of hits from viewers, including potential auto buyers.