All estimates point to an uncertain future for the auto industry. Developments in big tech and international markets portend changes that will likely manifest in the US market within the next few years and while Europe and China have begun to embrace online sales, the US remains fettered by market regulations and weakly federated dealership networks. Brands must think outside of the box to develop digital strategies that will weatherproof them against the lean times ahead.

The top brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Auto experiment with advanced e-commerce features like online deposits and reservations, strengthen the connective tissue between local dealers and online properties, and dabble in international markets where regulations are less restrictive.

1. Ford
Digital IQ: 140

The sole Genius brand in L2’s study, Ford bids against more competitors’ branded search terms on Google than any other brand. The company complements television spend with investments on YouTube, where it has the largest community and garners the most views. Ford also taps into personalization on its homepage with the “Pick Up Right Where You Left Off” feature, which changes content based on the user’s prior browsing behavior.

2. Toyota
Digital IQ: 136

The only brand to serve more than a million mobile display ads, Toyota boasts the highest organic visibility against keywords related to SUVs and energy efficiency. On social media, the brand promoted its sponsorship of the 2018 Olympics with #TeamToyota and #LetsGoPlaces.

3. Chevrolet
Digital IQ: 135

Chevrolet seizes a top spot in the ranking thanks to excellent organic visibility against category-specific keywords as well as a strong paid strategy. The brand also effectively concentrates spend on YouTube behind a small number of videos, resulting in a large amplification effect and yielding the fourth most views out of all tracked brands.

4. Mercedez-Benz
Digital IQ: 134

Mercedes-Benz sets itself apart by adopting best practices laid out by luxury brands across industries, including incorporating voting buttons to foster audience interaction, using influencers to expand its reach to new audiences, and sharing engaging vlogs to position itself as a lifestyle brand that transcends its products. To top it off, the brand generates the most interactions of any tracked brands on Instagram and secures the highest organic visibility against luxury-specific keywords.

5. Honda
Digital IQ: 131

By adding geolocation and multiple next steps to its Dealership Locator, Honda facilitates a smoother handoff process. The brand complements strong organic visibility with a paid strategy and is active on YouTube as well, ringing in the fifth most paid views out of all competitors.

6. Nissan
Digital IQ: 128

With the best Dealership Locator tool in L2’s study, Nissan enables customers to search local inventory, schedule a test drive, or contact a dealer. The brand also leads in paid search visibility, surfacing against 56% of unbranded keywords for which any ad appeared.

7. Porsche
Digital IQ: 125

Porsche is one of the few brands that has been able to strike a balance between mobile sophistication and speed. Meanwhile, syndication of its Top 5 video series across social channels has driven one of the highest levels of organic community growth and engagement.

7. Volvo
Digital IQ: 125

Volvo beats out the competition with the best mobile site in L2’s study. Thanks to improved site infrastructure, the brand also stands out when it comes to site speed.

9. Cadillac
Digital IQ: 117

Cadillac shines with sophisticated features like live chat and a comparison tool, making for a strong mobile site. In late 2017, Cadillac participated in an emerging business model in the form of subscription-based car ownership, allowing users to share luxury vehicles, catering to a wealthier audience with monthly subscription fees upwards of $2,000.

9. Kia
Digital IQ: 117

Kia is one of the brands among the digital vanguard, capturing more than 10% of paid views on YouTube and still maintaining strong TV campaigns. The brand also features an innovative Facebook Messenger chatbot called Kian that allows users to explore new car models and locate their closest dealership.

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