Rising interest rates and declining resale values suggest that the era of strong organic demand and low incentives may finally be at an end.  Increasingly, the winners in the Auto sector will be brands that consolidate the shopping process online and improve customer support through “third wave” connectivity platforms. From Ford to Cadillac, the top brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Auto recognize the vital link between digital competence and shareholder value.

1. Ford
Digital IQ: 144

Not only does Ford boast the most YouTube subscribers and channel views of any manufacturer in the study, but the Genius brand also shares the most content, posting more than 350 videos in 2016. Monthly unique visits to the brand site consistently surpass the 12 million mark, making Ford one of the few brands able to challenge Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Cars.com, and Edmunds in web authority.

2. Toyota
Digital IQ: 140

Fellow Genius brand Toyota is the only company promoting Inventory Search, Special Offers, and Vehicle Comparison tools via SEM, indicating that the brand anticipates the needs of shoppers searching from mobile devices. Furthermore, brand destinations demonstrate the highest organic search visibility on Google across the widest set of category terms.

3. Nissan
Digital IQ: 137

Nissan’s Rogue One movie campaign and #DieHardFan content helped the value brand secure leading share of voice on Facebook, a platform dominated by Luxury brands. Nissan’s strategy demonstrates the pay-to-play nature of the social platform, as well as its limits. The brand promoted a third of its Facebook posts during the study period, garnering over 13,000 interactions per post. However, while Audi and Mercedez-Benz have similar post promotion rates, Nissan gained more interactions.

4. Mercedes-Benz
Digital IQ: 135

Mercedes debuted a new approach to the connected car experience (“Mercedes me”) this year, providing both comprehensive vehicle management and personalized owner services. The brand also demonstrates innovation on Instagram, where it lets social influencers, journalists, photographers, and employees temporarily take over the account to capture various perspectives on life with a Mercedes-Benz. In 2015, the campaign produced 269 images, generating 2.3 million interactions and an estimated $4 million in earned media.

Mercedes

5. Chevrolet
Digital IQ: 131

Chevrolet mirrored its offline investment in the Real People, Not Actors campaign across desktop, video, and mobile ad spend, making the brand one of the Index’s top digital ad buyers. The brand devotes nearly equal amounts of display advertising to local dealerships and national campaigns, a bottom-of-the-funnel strategy that contrasts sharply with competitor Ford. The latter invests nearly four times as much in national advertising as in local dealerships – a potentially costlier strategy.

5. Subaru
Digital IQ: 131

The brand sees high open rates from its insider email marketing efforts, which incorporate content from Subaru’s Growing a Greener World TV sponsorship. Subaru also uses Twitter to engage directly with customers and fans, leading the Index in tweet frequency as a result.

7. BMW
Digital IQ: 130

BMW’s Connected app was one of the study’s top performers in the App Store, demonstrating the brand’s attention to innovation. Furthermore, efficient employ of programmatic ad buying promotes an optimal tradeoff between the impact and cost of display media efforts.

8. Honda
Digital IQ: 126

In its signature achievement, Honda beat out Ford to become the most mentioned Index brand on Instagram outside the luxury category. The brand is also one of only six to return mobile search results relevant to the user’s location.

9. Audi
Digital IQ: 123

With the leading share of voice on Instagram and largest following on Twitter, Audi ensures continued social relevance. The brand’s social efforts revolve around UGC, and are predominantly visual, even on Twitter, where Audi shares photos, videos, and GIFs. 

10. Cadillac
Digital IQ: 122

One of ten brands to drastically overhaul its site in the past year, Cadillac demonstrates attention to mobile as well as desktop. The manufacturer’s mobile site provides rapid access to shopping tools, while its iPad magazine focuses on lifestyle content.

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