Sixty-two percent of all new-vehicle buyers are turning to the Internet for automotive information while shopping for their vehicle.

Most of these shoppers go online for automotive information before they begin visiting dealers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 New Autoshopper.com study.

The study shows an eight percentage point growth in automotive Internet usage for 2001 — up from 54% in 2000.

“The Internet provides automotive shoppers with information of real value that not only continues to attract new users, but also keeps them coming back for more,” says Chris Denove, partner and senior director of automotive retail research at J.D. Power and Associates.

On average, an automotive Internet user visits 6.8 automotive sites before making a purchase. Automotive Internet users indicate a clear preference for independent, third-party web sites. Manufacturer sites were the preferred choice only for looking up vehicle facts such as options and features information. Independent sites were preferred for anything related to pricing or buying.

According to the study, Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) remains the most visited site for the fourth straight year while Edmonds.com was viewed as the most useful web site. Ford.com was the most frequently visited manufacturer site.

“The best way for a manufacturer to drive traffic to its web site is to feature the site as part of its traditional advertising campaign,” says Denove. “Companies such as BMW and Isuzu that instituted offline campaigns to drive customers to their web site saw the largest increases in automotive Internet usage.”

The study findings show that autobytel.com again sells more vehicles online than any other independent web site service. GM BuyPower.com is the leading factory-sponsored web site for generating online new-vehicle sales.

Industry wide, 6% of all new vehicles were sold through an online buying service — up from 4.7% in 2000.