We found an interesting study this morning published by Google which describes consumer automotive shopping behavior in 2011. Some highlights below here as well as a link to Google direct for the full presentation.
Based on this and other studies over the last few years, its clear that consumers are shopping smarter, and looking for information to validate the purchase. Third party content which supports OEM claims is valuable. Additionally, as vehicles equipment and features evolve - consumer are more interested in relevent vehicle highlights rather than large blocks of text which describe every aspect of the vehicle.
Google study highlights (summarized)
Safety, utility and fuel efficiency are primary areas of interest for consumers
Searching inventory and obtaining trade in information are the two top shopping behaviors - on third party sites
In vehicle technology is still researched primarily at the OEM site
Consumers are increasingly moving to non-traditional sites (OEM/Dealer) to perform their vehicle research
On third party sites, inventory search and generic model research are used most frequently by car buyers.
Car buyers using mobile phones, allocate more time in the car buying process to comparison of features
Video ads drove initial vehicle interest for over 30% of carbuyers