In the past year, Nissan N.A. and Ford Motor Co. Web sites are showing signs of increased consumer interest as evidenced by comparing the unique visitors from January 2008 to January 2009. In terms of year-over-year growth in site visitors, Nissan N.A. saw an increase of 14% while Ford Motor Co. showed a 9% increase. Chrysler LLC experienced the steepest decline in site traffic at 26% followed by General Motors (-17%), Toyota Motor Sales (-11%) and Honda Motor Co. (-5%).
In January 2008, visitors to Chrysler LLC sites also visited or overlapped with General Motors sites (24%) followed by Ford Motor Co. (22%), Honda Motor Co. (15%), Toyota Motor Sales (14%) and Nissan N.A. (9%) sites. The overlap landscape has significantly changed for Chrysler in January 2009 as General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are the only automakers to be cross-shopped with 16% and 3% respectively. Further analysis of online discussion reveals that consumer confidence toward Chrysler’s products, leadership and future viability is decreasing, which poses a threat to potential sales.
Interestingly, Ford is showing signs of becoming a stronger competitor to Toyota, Nissan and Honda, while having less audience overlap with Chrysler and General Motors. In January 2008, roughly 15% of consumers that visited a Toyota Motor Sales site also went to a Ford Motor Co. site, while in January 2009 this rose to 20%. Nissan N.A. sites witnessed a similar overlap increase from 20% to 27% with Ford Motor Co.
Is this change in consumer behavior due to Ford’s improved products, a sign of consumer confidence that Ford refused to receive any government bailout money, or both? Online discussion is indicating that Ford’s strong leadership and refusal of bailout money is giving them the competitive advantage over Chrysler and General Motors. As the threat of bankruptcy grows stronger for General Motors and Chrysler, it is my hypothesis that Ford will continue to benefit from their decision to refuse government aid both in terms of site traffic as well as sentiment of online discussion.