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Survey Shows Online Auto Shoppers Prefer E-Mail Interactions with Dealers

CINCINNATI - March 1, 2000 - Car shoppers who visit auto dealer Web sites prefer, by an overwhelming majority, to have dealers first interact with them by e-mail rather than phone.

This is the finding from a major research study of online shoppers conducted by Friedman-Swift Associates, an automotive market research firm, and The Cobalt Group, (NASDAQ: CBLT), a leading provider of Internet solutions and business-to-business services to the automotive industry. The research study surveyed 934 consumers who visited Cobalt's DealerNet® ( in November and December 1999.

According to Judy George, senior vice president of Friedman-Swift and coordinator of the research study, 82 percent of those surveyed preferred an e-mail response to their initial online inquiries. While 10 percent expressed no preference, only seven percent asked for a return phone call, and only one percent requested a fax.

"Consumers are saying, loud and clear, 'don't call us'-at least not at first," George said. "Undoubtedly, most online car shoppers will end up speaking by phone or in person with someone at a dealership before they buy a car. But they prefer that these spoken interactions come a little later in the buying process."

For auto dealers, this preference might signal a change in hiring practices. "Rather than relying solely on salespeople with strong verbal skills to build relationships with customers, dealers will also need to have salespeople with strong writing skills," George said. "To keep online shoppers interested, dealers must respond in a way that makes those shoppers feel comfortable--and do it in a timely fashion."

The research also showed that 82 percent of the respondents would like dealers to respond to their requests for information in one day or less.

"About 55 percent of dealers responded in that time period," George said. "But 19 percent of dealers never responded to shoppers' inquiries at all. We expect these numbers to improve, however, as more dealers actively embrace Internet technology."

George added that the individuals surveyed were serious shoppers. Of the total sample, 77 percent intended to purchase a vehicle in the next year and 40 percent planned a purchase in the next two months. "Dealers who pay attention to these shoppers' preferences are more likely to win their business," George said.

"In all of its training programs, Cobalt emphasizes to dealers the importance of rapid response to e-mail inquiries," said Suzanne Sellers, senior business development manager at The Cobalt Group. "Dealers who leverage their Internet marketing investment best are the ones who answer e-mail quickly and provide detailed price and vehicle information with their response."

Key findings from the research study are posted at The research findings have a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.


Since 1979, Friedman-Swift Associates has been a leading provider of retail automotive marketing research. The firm has conducted thousands of custom marketing research studies for dealers, dealer associations, automobile manufacturers and advertising agencies. Friedman-Swift's clients include 24 of the top 30 megadealer groups in the U.S. and most dealerships that are ranked number one in each vehicle line in Ward's Dealer Business listings. More information about the company can be found at


The Cobalt Group (NASDAQ: CBLT), based in Seattle, is a leading provider of Internet-based products and services for the automotive industry. Through Internet-based application development and hosting, data management, and online referral services, Cobalt helps dealers, dealer groups and automobile manufacturers harness the power of the Internet to realize new efficiencies, win new prospects and better serve their customers. With approximately 5,200 dealer Web site clients, over 10,000 dealers using its parts locating system, and relationships with 16 automotive manufacturers and more than 50 of the 100 largest dealer groups in the United States, Cobalt is one of the leading technology companies serving the automotive industry. Cobalt operates (, a business-to-business vertical portal for the automotive industry; DealerNet® (, one of the best-known automotive destination sites on the Web; and PartsVoice® (, a leading OEM auto parts locating and data management service. The Cobalt Group also owns IntegraLink Corporation the auto industry's premier provider of advanced data extraction and reporting services. Cobalt offers Web site services that are endorsed by the National Automobile Dealers Association. For more information, please visit The Cobalt Group at

Judy George
513-772-9204, ext. 122 (office)

Friedman-Swift  |  110 Boggs Lane Suite 200  |  Cincinnati, Ohio 45246  |  513-772-9200