‘Discounts’ move traffic to car sites

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Detroit carmakers' pricing deals this summer, fueled by General Motors Corp.'s employee discounts, created a frenzy of online activity. The online market share of the entire automaker category jumped by 9% in June, 13% in July and 9% in August compared to the same year-ago months, according to Hitwise. But GM's first-out-of-the-gate "Employee Discount" program grew its online market share the most.

GM was first to offer a discount program in June, extended it monthly and now says it will end Sept. 30. Chrysler Group started its "Employee Pricing Plus" in July, when Ford Motor Co. also entered the fray with its "Family Plan."

GM's "Employee Discount" program helped increase the total online market share of U.S. visits to gm.com by 477% for the week ended June 11 compared to the prior two weeks, said Hitwise. Traffic to the site has leveled off, but visits are still nearly double what they were before the incentive program was introduced.

Ford and Chrysler's incentive programs generated less-dramatic traffic spikes to their sites. Market share of visits to fordvehicles.com, and ford.com increased 37% and 55% respectively for the week ending July 9, compared with the two prior weeks. Market share of visits to chrysler.com, dodge.com and jeep.com rose by 15%, 4% and 31% over the same period.

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