The operators of cars.com say it’s early, but there just may be some indications in their crystal ball showing a return to market by procrastinating car buyers. "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."
What are the signs? For one thing, since the year began, cars.com has registered a 19% increase over web hits during the same period last year. Even better, the visitors are spending more time per visit, indicating an engaged and active consumer. Searches in general are up 19%, and up 16% in the new car category.
Here’s another hot indicator: Searches originating from a mobile device are up 30%, and 39% of them came from somebody who was actually at a dealership.
"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.
RBR/TVBR observation: Sitting on this economic desert island amid an unbroken sea of gloomy news, this is at the very least a bona fide ship sighting, and it might well be a rescue ship. Let’s build the biggest marketing bonfire we can to tell encourage consumers to buy, and dealers to spend some money with us telling them where to buy.