Auto Spending on Internet Picking Up Speed

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Automakers are speeding dollars into the interactive channel, according to a new report by online market research firm eMarketer.

Although 70% of consumers use the Internet at some point in their car-buying purchase cycle, online advertising among the auto manufacturers accounted for just 11.2% of the total online revenue of $12.9 billion. In 2006, it is climbing to 15% of the predicted total online spending.

The auto industry -- the world's largest advertising category -- spent more than $17 billion on total advertising in the first 11 months of 2005, said the report. But despite the large number of consumers who use the Web, "the industry has been slow to commit to online advertising and promotion," said the report.

Among the reasons for the increased spending is that purchasing executives at the car companies have also gotten more involved in monitoring marketing and its return on investments, and online advertising is the easiest to track.

Ben Hilverada, marketing communications manager at American Suzuki Motor Corp., for example, said the automaker doubled its online ad spending in 2005 and will increase it by another 50% in 2006. Suzuki's Web site lets visitors get a "quick quote" on a new vehicle and set up a test drive at an area dealer. The site averages 5,000 quick quotes monthly, but in January, it generated 25,000, he said.

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