Autobytel Inc. (Nasdaq: ABTL) announced the winners of its fourth annual Consumer Choice Awards at the 2006 NADA Convention in Orlando. The awards were presented by Autobytel at NADA to the automakers who built and marketed the vehicles requested most by Autobytel’s millions of online auto shoppers during 2005. Based on vehicle Purchase Request(1) data generated throughout the year, Autobytel’s Consumer Choice Awards provide a unique snapshot of the selection decisions made online during the year – a critical consideration given the automotive Internet’s dominant, and rapidly growing, impact on car-buying decisions. Autobytel attracts millions of unique monthly shoppers through its network of vehicle research and car-buying sites and generates approximately $200 million in car sales for dealers every week.
“It’s estimated that every 7.5 seconds an American car shopper requests a vehicle through Autobytel,” said Autobytel President and CEO Rick Post. “Our Consumer Choice Awards tell us the vehicles these shoppers are selecting in a competitive online research and shopping environment. The awards matter because this is the way more and more people are shopping with each passing year – and because these are the shoppers who are defining many of the market trends that are shaping our industry.”
Accord Most Requested Vehicle Overall; MINI, Mustang and Prius Crack Top-10
The Honda Accord was the Most Requested Vehicle Overall for the third year in a row, leading a top-10 Overall Most Requested Vehicle list dominated by nine Honda and Toyota brand models. Notable top-10 Most Requested entries include the MINI Cooper (at #6), the Honda Odyssey (#3) and the Toyota Prius (#10). The Ford Mustang, which finished as the Most Requested Sporty Vehicle and the ninth-Most Requested Vehicle Overall, was also an exceptionally popular choice among Autobytel shoppers.
Online Buyers High on High-Mileage Vehicles With Top-10 Most Requested Vehicles for ’05 Averaging 30mpg/hwy – Yet Focus on Fuel Softens in Q4
The big story of 2005 was the rise of fuel economy as a key car-buying consideration. And that trend was particularly sharp on Autobytel’s sites, where the top-10 Most Requested Vehicles Overall for the year averaged roughly 30 mpg/hwy.(2) This strong fuel consciousness played out across virtually every category. The top-10 most requested SUVs, for example, averaged nearly 25 mpg/hwy, while the top-10 luxury vehicles averaged roughly 26 mpg/hwy.
Yet that average mpg was even higher (nearly 32 mpg) in Q3, on the heels of the fuel crunch caused by Hurricane Katrina, suggesting that Autobytel shoppers’ focus on fuel may have peaked around that time and softened a bit since. With fuel prices leveling off during the final quarter of the year, Autobytel’s Q4 top-10 Overall Most Requested vehicle list reflected a diversity of choices, including: two mid-sized cars (Accord, Camry), three small cars/compacts (Civic, Corolla, MINI Cooper), two minivans (Odyssey, Sienna) and one full-size truck (the F-150).
2005 Autobytel Consumer Choice Awards Winners
#1 Overall Most Requested New Vehicle – Honda Accord
#1 Overall Increase Vehicle Requests (vehicle brand) – Hummer
Most Requested New Truck – Ford F-150
Most Requested New Passenger Car – Honda Accord
Most Requested New SUV – Toyota Highlander
Most Requested New Luxury Car – BMW 3 Series
Most Requested New Sports Car – Ford Mustang
Most Requested New Minivan – Honda Odyssey
Trends to Watch …
The Civic Soars into ’06 – Even though the Civic’s torrid Q4 popularity wasn’t quite enough to push it past the Accord for Most Requested Overall honors for the year, all the momentum is on its side moving into 2006 … at least until the new Accord hits the showrooms.
Online Buyers’ Love Affair With Smaller Trucks Appears Short-Lived – In Q3 Autobytel shoppers showed a budding interest in mid-sized trucks. But according to Q4 Purchase Request data, that mid-size romance may have been short-lived. Case in point: the Nissan Frontier, which enjoyed steady Purchase Request growth from Q1 to Q3, before requests plummeted 22% in Q4.
Hummer Cools Off – In a year that saw car buyers, online and off, foregoing large SUVs in favor of more fuel-efficient cars and crossovers, it was the famously outsized Hummer brand that enjoyed the biggest year-over-year gain in Purchase Requests on Autobytel sites. But requests for hot domestics like the H3, the Pontiac Solstice and Dodge Charger peaked in Q3 of 2005 (during GM’s Employee Pricing promotion), and have since cooled off. While the Solstice and the Charger absorbed relatively minor Q4 Purchase Request declines of 6 and 4 percent, respectively, requests for the H3 fell 15%. While all three models will likely remain significant competitors in their segments, look for the H3 to have the toughest time – and as the H3 goes, so goes the Hummer brand, at least online.
For a detailed summary of Consumer Choice Awards data and trends, a year-to-year analysis of Purchase Requests, and/or photos of the winning vehicles, please contact Betsy Isroelit at 213.300.0108.
About Autobytel Inc.
Autobytel Inc. (Nasdaq: ABTL), a leading Internet automotive marketing services company, helps retailers sell cars and manufacturers build brands through marketing, advertising, data and CRM products and programs. It’s estimated that every 7.5 seconds an American car shopper requests a vehicle through Autobytel, which owns and operates the automotive websites–Autobytel.com, Autoweb.com, Carsmart.com, Car.com, AutoSite.com, Autoahorros.com, and CarTV.com. This automotive research and buying network reaches millions of car shoppers each month as they make their vehicle buying decisions, generating billions of dollars in sales for dealers.
A leader in dealership customer management and CRM solutions, Autobytel also owns and operates AVV, Inc., a top provider of dealership CRM and sales management products, and Retention Performance Marketing, Inc., (RPM(R)), which powers dealerships with cutting-edge customer loyalty and retention marketing programs. Autobytel’s AIC (Automotive Information Center) has been a trusted industry source of automotive marketing data and technology for over 20 years. Autobytel Inc. is the only company to achieve top rankings for both its lead management and lead generation services among the nation’s top-100 Internet dealers.
(1)Online car buyers submit vehicle Purchase Requests through Autobytel to local dealers to buy a specific vehicle. The Autobytel Consumer Choice Awards are based on vehicle Purchase Requests submitted (with an intent to buy) by online shoppers through Autobytel’s sites during the 2005 calendar year.
(2)Model fuel ratings derived by averaging the EPA fuel rating (highway) for each model trim level, covering both the 2005 and 2006 model years