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Net result of a good auto maker web site: more consumer test drives

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The Internet plays a massive role in influencing new-car shoppers, with 72 per cent saying they are more likely to test drive a vehicle if they are "delighted" with the manufacturer's web site, says a new study from J.D. Power and Associates.

On the other hand, disappointing sites are a stunning turn-off. Only 20 per cent of "disappointed" web site visitors bothered with a test drive.

The web, then, is a key tool for reeling new-car shoppers into dealerships.Yet J. D. Power's 2014 Canadian Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study shows that Canadian automotive brand sites fall far short of their U.S. counterparts in all measures of customer satisfaction. In Canada, manufacturer sites average 777 on a 1,000-point scale, while in the United States, the average score is 814.

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"Compared with U.S. consumers in general, Canadians tend to be more critical and have higher expectations for big-ticket purchases, such as houses and vehicles," says J.D. Ney, manager, automotive research and consulting at J.D. Power. Ney says that manufacturers in Canada should look carefully at what their U.S. counterparts are doing, as well as to other non-automotive sites for direction in how to improve.

In Canada, Toyota ranks first in the study with a score of 829 on the 1,000-point scale, followed by Buick (816), Volvo (801), Jeep (797), Mazda (796), Chrysler (791), Cadillac (787), GMC (785) and Mitsubishi (783). Rounding out the list of sites ranked above the average were Dodge (781), Ford (781) and Ram (780).

The study points to the value of rich information and excellent photos as key parts of a successful web site experience. Only one-quarter of visitors bother looking at videos on-site, but more than 80 per cent look at images.

Most important, however, is information. Not all incentive information is available on manufacturer web sites, and even if it is, finding complete and accessible facts and figures is not always easy. Dealer discounts, negotiated locally, are never posted on manufacturer sites. But here, at Deals of the Week, we highlight the likely dealer discounts available, along with other incentives.

Deals certainly noticed the $9,500-plus in before- and after-tax savings, along with potential dealer discounts, on the 2014 Lexus GS 350 with the F-Sport package. Lexus has had a difficult time making its F-Sport packages resonate in the marketplace, as the fat sales sweeteners show.

Other notable offers include $2,000 on a Honda CR-V; $1,000 and zero per cent financing on the Ford Focus; and a whopping $8,000 in factory incentives on the Volvo S80.

​Deals of the Week consulted with unhaggle.com, Car Help Canada, carcostcanada.com, and other sources on these offers. As usual, pricing information here is subject to change and dealer discounts vary, so consult your dealer for the final details, including expiry dates for all offers.

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Toyota Toyota  

2014 Lexus GS 350 four-door sedan AWD F-Sport Package

  • MSRP: $59,950
  • Freight, dealer prep, air conditioning tax: $2,130
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $4,300
  • Taxable subtotal: $57,780
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $65,291.40
  • Factory discount: $3,500 (Manufacturer incentive F-Sport Bonus)
  • Factory discount: $2,000 (manufacturer discount)
  • The F-Sport Bonus can be stacked with 3.8 per cent financing for four years or a 2.9 per cent lease rate for four years.

Honda Honda  

2014 Honda CR-V 4WD LX

  • MSRP: $28,300
  • Freight, dealer prep and air conditioning tax: $1,830
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $1,400
  • Factory discount: $2,500 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Taxable subtotal: $26,230
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $29,639.90
  • Factory cash incentives are not available with 0.99 per cent financing for four years or a 1.99 per cent lease rate for four years.

Ford Ford  

2014 Ford Focus four-door sedan SE

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  • MSRP: $18,799
  • Freight, dealer prep, AC tax: $1,700
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $800
  • Factory discount: $500 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Taxable subtotal: $19,199
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $21,694.87
  • Factory discount: $500 (Costco rebate)
  • Final price: $21,194.87
  • Factory cash rebates are available with zero per cent financing for 48 or 60 months or a zero per cent lease rate for 48 months.

Volvo Volvo  

2014 Volvo S80 four-door sedan 3.2

  • MSRP: $48,300
  • Freight, PDI, AC tax: $1,850
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $1,600
  • Factory discount: $7,500 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Factory discount: $1,000 (Loyalty Bonus)
  • Taxable subtotal: $40,050
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $45,256.50
  • Up to $2,750 in manufacturer incentives are available with 1.9 per cent financing for 48 or 60 months.

Pricing information source: unhaggle.com and carcostcanada.com. Calculations based on Ontario customers.Please note that while the information above is accurate at the time of publication, incentives are given at the discretion of individual dealers, and may be changed or discontinued at any time. Where noted, "dealer discounts" are negotiated with the customer on a case-by-case basis. Unhaggle Savings are actual discounts received by Unhaggle customers.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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