Auto Brand Websites: Audi, BMW, Benz Great; Tesla, Lotus, Lambo Lousy

January 15, 2010

It shouldn't be news to any reader of this site that every automaker now has extensive product information on its website. But the relative usefulness of different carmakers' sites varies enormously, and now the Luxury Lab (L2) has evaluated every single one.

Their Digital IQ Index ranking breaks the sites into groups: Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged, and Feeble. The site platform counts for 40 percent, off-platform messaging for 25 percent, social media efforts for 20 percent, and search optimization for 15 percent.

The complete list is laid out, with comments, in the program for an upcoming one-day conference to be held January 29 at New York University's Stern School of Business. The full 155-page report is available online, for a stiff $2,500.

Genius Germans

The Genius group includes sites optimized in every way for consumer use. These sites, say the authors, are "search optimized, aesthetically engaging, functional, and interactive. They...engage users...through compelling digital and mobile advertising and social media content." Genius sites indicate that the maker "dealership site as integral to the brand Web experience."

German luxury makes dominate the genius brands. Audi leads off ("consistent brand messaging across every online channel"), followed by BMW ("Great social media, commerce-orientation, and microsite branding"), and then Mercedes-Benz ("M-brace mobile platform is among the most innovative").

Luxury Lab (L2) rankings of automotive digital efforts, January 2010

Luxury Lab (L2) rankings of automotive digital efforts, January 2010

Feeble supercar sites

At the other end of the scale are the Feeble brands, which have "largely ignored the digital phenomenon." Their sites "lack basic functionality and navigability," while the carmakers "disregard online advertising and social media."

Worst of all is supercar maker Lamborghini, which is called "a navigational nightmare" that demands four mouse clicks just to get to a picture of the car. Only marginally better is Lotus, "a brand built on design aesthetic," which is dinged for its "poorly organized, haphazard site."

Tesla loses out

Surprisingly, electric-car startup Tesla comes in third to last. As the reviewers note, its website "gets good traffic," but is too "investor-oriented" and "text heavy," lacking focus on the actual product: the 2010 Tesla Roadster.

The highest ranking U.S. brand is Ford, which came in fifth out of the 44 sites evaluated. It wins a "Gifted" rating for its "best-in-class configurator" that "interfaces seamlessly with dealer inventory," along with "tremendous social media efforts"--including its innovative Fiesta Movement program that introduced the 2011 Ford Fiesta more than a year before that subcompact actually shows up at dealers.

Best by category

The study also ranks the best entrant in each price category. Ford and Scion are tied for "value," and Volkswagen wins in the "premium entry-level" group, followed by Jeep and Mini.

Audi romps to first place in "luxury," as well as overall rating, and Ferrari takes the prize for the "ultra-luxury" category.

[L2 Thinktank]

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