A new report from Chicago based Cars dot Com shows an increase in online car shopping activity in the New Year.

Data covers short period

Here at Auto Credit Express, we wanted our dealers to be aware of a recent study released last week by online vehicle site Cars.com that shows a significant uptick in the number of visitors to the car-shopping web site. And while the measurement is for a relatively short period of time, this could be an encouraging sign for retail auto dealers.

Cars.com Reports Increase in Car-Shopping Activity in New Year

CHICAGO, Jan. 19 / -- Several key audience statistics measured on Cars.com show positive gains to start the New Year, a sign that consumers who were taking a "wait and see" approach to car buying because of the economy might now be coming back to market.

"While we are looking at a relatively short period of data, we are seeing lifts in several key metrics that correlate with purchase behavior -- an encouraging sign for dealers looking for a rebound after a tough close to 2008," said Mitch Golub, president of Cars.com. "Based on activity we saw in the first full business week of the year on Cars.com, we are optimistic that automotive sales will pick up in the first quarter of 2009."

Measures of consumers entering the car-shopping process appear to be improving, based on key site metrics on Cars.com for the first workweek of 2009.

•    More consumers are going to Cars.com; site visits are up 19 percent over the same time last year. Consumers are more engaged in the process: Time spent per visit is up 8 percent since December and 12 percent over a year ago; it's now 15 minutes for each visit.*

•    Searches conducted are up 19 percent since December, and searches for new cars are up 16 percent over a year ago.

•    Leads submitted to dealers are up 18 percent over December and up 8 percent over a year ago.

In addition, Cars.com also has had record visits to its mobile site, with vehicle searches via mobile devices up 30 percent over December. A recent survey conducted by Cars.com showed that 39 percent of consumers who accessed Cars.com through their mobile device were on a dealer lot shopping for a car when they did so.

"While it is still early to tell if this trend will continue, we are encouraged to see such solid year-over-year gains, especially since last January was a strong month. We see all of these measures as positive signs for the automotive business as we head into the New Year," Golub said.

*Based on Cars.com site metrics Jan. 5-Jan. 11, 2009. Represents the first complete business week of the New Year. Comparable dates for 2008 are Jan. 7-Jan. 13, 2008. Monthly comparisons are based on Cars.com site metrics from Jan. 5-Jan. 11, 2009 versus Dec. 5-Dec. 11, 2008.

The Bottom Line

Again, adopting the “glass half full” approach, it would seem that, despite the relatively short term of measurement, there could very well be a sizeable pent-up demand for new vehicles, based on this study. Here at Auto Credit Express, we believe that dealers need to take advantage of this demand by spending their marketing dollars using a selective strategy: marketing to their current customers while expanding their subprime business by buying subprime auto finance leads from Auto Credit Express.