The most popular vehicles of the year, according to Autobytel online shoppers
So this is what you really want to drive. And why should we be surprised that the annual Autobytel Consumer Choice Awards are so different than the rest of the critics' awards and "unofficial official" polls? Those polls and critics awards are ultimately popularity contests - and Consumer Choice has something quite a bit more solid behind it. Such as the vehicle purchase intentions of thousands of serious car buyers. The Autobytel Consumer Choice Awards provide a broad overview of online shopping behavior - shedding light on an exploding automotive marketing medium (the Internet) that now has more influence on new car-buying decisions than either TV or newspaper ads. This year's Consumer Choice Awards once again revealed some striking differences between Autobytel's online shoppers and traditional buyers - notably, a relative online tendency toward import cars and a strong responsiveness to pricing, performance, and feature specifications. Online shoppers respond to quality vehicles that are priced competitively, and are not swayed solely on the merits of a rebate check. Awards were presented to the manufacturers who built the cars and trucks that were the most popular among the 7.7 million average monthly unique visitors who researched and shopped on Autobytel's web sites during 2004, based on Purchase Request data amassed by Autobytel throughout the year. Because of this, the Awards are based on the strongest indicator of online shopping preferences, and provide unique insight into the cars and trucks online automotive shoppers prefer most. This year, those preferences revealed a changing landscape where long-time favorites remain, but unmistakable shifts in buyer choices are now occurring. Though the Ford Explorer, a traditional bestseller, won for SUV of the year, one day online shoppers will select a crossover vehicle as number one. Over the past two years, in fact, truck-based SUVs have seen their online market share dwindle from a virtual domination to a sharing of power with crossover vehicles, those car-like SUVs that save in gas and boost performance. That's not all - this year, online shoppers indicated that the recent resurgence of minivans is no trend: minivans, thanks to redesigns such as the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, have staying power with online shoppers because, as our editors so presciently reported, minivans are flat out the best family cars available today. It's not all about buying for the family, though. These same shoppers also gave a big thumbs up to power and attitude by choosing the Chrysler 300/300C as New Model of the Year. So here they are. The best sellers of 2004 - and beyond. The cars that you chose, not some high-'falutin group of editors who don't actually buy the cars - they just drive 'em. And while a fella can tell a lot about a car as it rolls down the road, he learns so much more when he has to write a check for it at the end of the month.
Some people don't think the Accord is exciting. They call it a boring commuter car, a car devoid of personality. Those people have never driven an Accord. With recent redesigns, the Accord has gotten sexier, more powerful and as a result it is darn near as perfect as a car can be in terms of meeting a core level of automotive challenges. It is simply the kind of car that keeps on going -- on the road and in its seemingly endless popularity. Few other vehicles have captured the combination of practicality, fun, value and affordability as successfully as the Accord -- which is why it remains the Top Overall New Consumer Choice Award winner. The Accord's mix of value and competitive pricing convince many online shoppers that it is the kind of vehicle they want - and need -- to purchase. The 2004 model year is a carryover from 2003, and is available as a coupe and a sedan, in a variety of trims. Among other changes, the 2005 Honda Accord features front side airbags and side curtain airbags for the first and second row in all sedan and coupe models.
What was supposed to be a car for the youth set has become three cars for everyone. That's especially true with online shoppers, as Scion offers vehicles that feature exciting style, quality build, entry-level pricing and one trim simplicity. It's all about cool value with Scion, which is probably why a large number of its buyers are in the thirty something age bracket. Frankly, however, it doesn't matter how old you are - we all know a good thing when we see it. And in 2003, we saw Scion and liked it so much that Scion exploded on the scene. Its first two cars, the xA and xB, were instantly popular online, and the momentum continued to build throughout 2004. With the addition of the new tC coupe, Scion is poised to continue building on its resounding success into 2005.
As far as we're concerned, the F-150 is such a big step up the evolutionary full-size truck ladder that right now there are only followers in its class. After 55 years of legacy, it still wins King of the Hill, with best-in-class towing capability, a new engine, new suspension and a quieter, more responsive ride. What stands out is its SUV comfort and convenience, with a completely overhauled interior, along with improved stowage and convenience, as well as its 3 cab sizes, varying bed lengths and two new engine choices. Best of all is its styling, especially the F4X-off road version. With 26 variations in a price range between $21,000 and $37,000, there's an F-150 for just about anybody inclined to buy a truck.
The Accord is the kind of car that keeps on going -- on the road and in its seemingly endless popularity. Few other vehicles have captured the combination of practicality, fun, value and affordability as successfully as the Accord -- which is why it remains the Top Overall New Consumer Choice Award winner. The Accord's mix of value and competitive pricing convinced many online shoppers that it is was the kind of vehicle they wanted to purchase. The 2004 model year is a carryover from 2003, and is available as a coupe and a sedan, in a variety of trims. Among other changes, the 2005 Honda Accord features front side airbags and side curtain airbags for the first and second row in all sedan and coupe models.
Redesigned and reengineered in 2002, the Ford Explorer continues to be the best selling SUV in America because it offers what people want from an SUV. With an optional third row, the Ford Explorer carries up to 7 people, can tow a trailer of up to 7,140 lbs (when properly equipped) and can handle moderate off-road duties. It does all the things an SUV is supposed to do, and, thanks to the numerous improvements made in 2002, does it on a wider track and a smoother ride than ever before. For 2005, the Explorer is positioned to continue its 14-year run of sales leadership by adding safety technology such as roll stability control across all series. The 2005 Explorer is available in XLS, XLS Sport, XLT, XLT Sport, Eddie Bauer and Limited trims. It is built in St. Louis, Mo., and Louisville, Ky.
It's smooth. Quiet. Aggressive and stylish. It's the BMW 3 Series, the Autobytel Consumer Choice for Luxury Vehicle. Surprised? Many of you were probably thinking that the online most requested luxury car would be Japanese, or maybe an American SUV. Not so, and by a wide margin. The reason is clear: the majority of online luxury car shoppers are looking for exactly what the 3 Series delivers: driving style, aggressive performance and impeccable interior comforts. The success of the 3 Series also underscores the continued growth of the entry-luxury market, especially online. There's also plenty of choice when it comes to selecting a 3 Series: the 3 Series is a 2- or 4-door, up to 5-passenger luxury sports coupe, luxury convertible, luxury sedan, luxury sports sedan, or luxury wagon, available in 10 trims, ranging from the 325i Sedan to the 330Ci Convertible. The 2005 BMW 3 Series Coupe is a carryover from 2004.
The Pony car lives. In fact, it's doing quite well as the 2004 Autobytel Consumer Choice for sports cars. Certainly, the online popularity of the Mustang underlines its overall appeal as the number 1 selling convertible in America. Since 1964, Ford has built the Mustang, and people have responded. Today, online shoppers continue to discover the Mustang's unique blend of racing feel and cruising style. With the recent introduction of the all-new 2005 Ford Mustang, Ford has restyled and vastly improved the America's classic pony car. Available in 8 trims as coupe, GT or convertible, the Mustang makes performance affordable, whether you choose the 210 horsepower coupe or the 300 horsepower GT.
How boring. Really -- who wants a car that does everything? Well, families, for one. They need a car that does everything and does it well because shipping kids and dogs and parcels around town is not exactly joyful riding. So when we went looking for a vehicle perfect for families, we were thinking in terms of convenience and dependability. Which really is the 2004 Toyota Sienna -- a great track record for dependability (except for the oil sludge thing a few years ago) and pretty much the most convenient and thoughtfully put together vehicle on the road. Larger and better equipped than the previous model, the Sienna takes everything that's right about minivans and puts it together in a seamless, attractive package. Highlights include a standard 3.3-liter, V6, 230-horsepower engine that gets 19-mpg in the city and 27-mpg on the highway, mated to a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. The resulting on-the-road experience is responsive, with good handling and acceleration characteristics. Other highlights include curtain-style side airbags, versatile seating combinations and plenty of cargo room. For now, that's enough to make the 2004 Sienna class leader when it comes to hauling families and the things families bring along for the ride. Haul your own for $23k and up.
It is the type of car you wash slowly, running your hand along the creases and the corners, cleaning the grille carefully, rubbing up the sculpted metal until you see your own goofy smile in the reflection. It is the kind of car you don't forget. The one you'll remember 20 years from now when you try to recall the cars of your life. Yes, the Chrysler 300 is all of that. With or without the Hemi, the 300 is a car for the future that harkens back to the past for its core appeal. Under that retro-rapper cum Bentley design lies a powerplant that features Displacement on Demand, a decidedly "now" type of technology that lets drivers have their power and not get eaten at the pump. There's also an all-wheel drive trim available, though it seems that most people want the rear drive grunt. The capability to have both - streams of power and good enough gas mileage at 17/24 mpg -- drives Chrysler 300 popularity, as does the premium feel of the car and the nicely executed interior. Even the 2.7-liter, V6, 190-horsepower engine does well down the road, though most people are interested in getting that "C" badge, which denotes the 5.7 liter, 340 horsepower big boy driving those meaty rear wheels.