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J.D. Power says potential US car buyers are happiest with smart's Web site

Potential U.S. car buyers who are satisfied with the Web experience offered by a carmaker are more likely to take a test drive than unhappy Web users, according to a J.D. Power report

The market researchers found that 72 pc of shoppers who said they were "delighted" with their online experience were "more likely" to take a test drive. That compares with only 25 pc of shoppers who said they were "disappointed."

Test drives are important, because they are a major factor in the buying decision.

"Satisfaction with a website increases the likelihood that shoppers will visit a dealership and test drive a vehicle," said Arianne Walker, senior director of media & marketing at J.D. Power.

The company, which conducts a Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study every six months, found in its latest research that shoppers want to have the same kind of information available, regardless of whether they use a desktop PC, a smartphone or a tablet.

J.D. Power found that the use of tablets to access automotive Web sites has increased 23 pc in the six months through November, 2012. Those users are directed either to the desktop version of an automaker's Web site or to the mobile variant of the site. Users' satisfaction with the carmaker's information is higher when they are directed to the PC version, J.D. Power said.

There's one caveat, Walker said. "It is critical that the desktop sites be designed to accommodate tablet navigational needs."

New-car shoppers ranked Daimler's smart brand Web site the highest in overall satisfaction, followed by Jeep, Lincoln and Acura.

J.D. Power polled 10,006 US new-car shoppers who had said they could make a purchasing decision in the next 24 months. The study was conducted in November, 2012