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Tech & Science Evaluates 20 Automaker Web Sites

YONKERS, N.Y. – While automakers’ web sites are often little more than glorified advertisements, most offer some useful information to car shoppers, according to the April issue of Consumer Reports and the e-Ratings: Online Shopping Guide at

In CR’s 2001 Auto Buying Survey, almost half the respondents from a
nationally representative sample of recent buyers and leasers visited a
manufacturer online, most probably using it as a research tool. To determine
the value of such sites to consumers, e-Ratings at
evaluated 20 popular automakers’ web sites. On the basis of content alone,
nearly all received good or very good marks for offering useful information
toward the car-selection and buying process, including “build-your-own”
interactive configurators, and information on vehicle specs, features, and

But, on the whole, these sites lack general buying advice, manufacturer
warranty comparison charts, car reviews, links to information and services for
car financing, insurance, or extended warranties. Nor do they list
manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) and invoice prices.

“Auto manufacturers’ web sites are a logical place for Internet users to
visit — we know from our Survey that these car sites are the third most used
source of information after prior experience with the make and talking to
dealers and auto salespeople,” says Paige Amidon, Chief Marketing Officer, New
Media and Consumer Reports New Car Price Service. “But there are places
online other than automakers’ sites to gather comprehensive car information
quickly — especially when it comes to vehicle financing.”

Overall the sites offer fairly similar content. A few standouts:

  • Lexus has links to, which in turn has links to other
    good safety sites

  • BMW has a personalized Owner’s Circle where customers can track their
    information and “Choose a Model” tool
  • Lincoln has a Spanish-language version
  • Saturn has personalized features for owners including service
    reminders, travel assistance, special offers, lease info, etc., and has
    a “Help Me Find the Right Saturn” tool
  • Toyota has a Glossary and an “Assess Your Needs” tool

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