Last year, millennials drove 27% of new car sales in the United States, becoming the second most influential group of buyers behind Boomers. That development makes digital even more vital to success for Auto brands.

L2’s Digital IQ Index: Auto reflects an increasingly competitive industry where many brands are stepping up their digital efforts. Leaders in the Gifted category leverage both conversion and awareness marketing tactics, with targeted spend across Social Media, Advertising,
and Search platforms. Conversely, Challenged and Feeble brands effectively ignore digital marketing.

Top Auto brands in digital1. Nissan
Digital IQ: 142

The brand earned the top spot in the Index thanks to its comprehensive digital investments, such as a desktop site that consistently drives visitors to request quotes, estimate trade-in value, and apply for financing online. Similarly, the brand’s transparent mobile inventory search engine pushes consumers to view cars at nearby dealerships.

Nissan has also achieved victories on social media. The brand’s Super Bowl 2016 ad, #WithDad, received over 22 million views on YouTube – making it the most popular Index brand video on the platform.

2. Dodge
Digital IQ: 141

Dodge also leverages pop culture to dramatic effect. The brand’s advertising partnership with Eminem during the American Music Awards in November generated a spike in earned media equivalent to most brands’ Super Bowl ads.

Like other brands from the Fiat Chrysler portfolio, Dodge excels at email. After consumers designate a model of interest, all subsequent emails from Dodge feature that model. For example, consumers who select the Charger receive follow-up emails with information about available colors, a new infotainment system, and vehicle availability.

3. Chevrolet
Digital IQ: 138

Many brands are turning to paid ads on generic terms as a means of compensating for poor SEO. While the average brand returns at least one ad on the first page of search results against 5% of tested keywords, Chevrolet is one of a handful of brands significantly outperforming this average by more than three times. The brand also controls nearly one-fifth of display advertising impressions, the largest share in the sector.

3. Ford
Digital IQ: 138

Ford had the most-downloaded app in 2015 thanks to its concentration on improving the mobile experience. “Ford Sync Destinations,” part of the Ford Sync suite of in-car connectivity programs, makes driving more convenient by letting users search for and save destinations. On social media, the brand has demonstrated that it continues to recover from lagging Facebook and YouTube performance in 2014.

5. Toyota
Digital IQ: 137

This best-in-class digital marketer excels in web advertising, with dedicated efforts to shift video spend from TV to online portals such as the new NBC/AOL outlets. Toyota also boasts a popular app and is one of four brands generating the most video views on YouTube.

YouTube views

6. Honda
Digital IQ: 135

Honda focused its social efforts on YouTube, where its successes include “Paper,” a video showing the history and range of Honda products that yielded more than 10 million views in the first week
of release. The brand also had one of the most-viewed videos in the U.K., indicating the ability to generate cross-national appeal.

7. BMW
Digital IQ: 129

BMW’s significant investments in Instagram paid off, with the brand garnering eight of the top 10 posts among Auto peers in 2015. In November, BMW scored another success by becoming the first car brand to offer end-to-end buying and leasing online in the U.K. In just 10 minutes, online shoppers can configure their perfect BMW, arrange a test drive, choose financing options and a payment method, receive a trade-in quote for their current car, and select the delivery date for the vehicle.

BMW Buy in UK

8. Jeep
Digital IQ: 120

As Facebook’s organic reach plateaus, Instagram’s impact has exploded. Reach on the platform has increased by 43% year over year, representing a major opportunity for Auto brands. Like many of its competitors, Jeep paid newfound attention to Instagram in 2015 – doubling its follower count.

8. Volkswagen
Digital IQ: 120

Amidset the ongoing emissions controversy, the German brand saw followers spike across social channels, suggesting that consumers were seeking updated news about the issue. Volkswagen successfully used those digital outlets to answer consumer questions, illustrating how brands can adapt traditional customer service to the digital era.

10. Mercedes-Benz
Digital IQ: 119

Mercedes-Benz’s Instagram account saw rapid growth in 2015 and now boasts the most post interactions of any brand in the Index, as well as a post frequency five times the Index average. By the end of 2015, @mercedesbenz had over four million followers, the second-highest follower count of any Index brand.

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