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Auto dealers have ramped up their use of online lead providers, according to a new dealer satisfaction study by J.D. Power, which was conducted in May and June with 4,141 respondents. They’ve gone from an average of 5.6 in 2006 to 6.8 in 2008. In addition, more than half the dealers in the study said they subscribe to a lead notification program, which alerts them to an incoming lead via cellphone voice or text messages.

The jump in used car lead services suggests an underlying dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of leads, says J.D. Power. On a scale of 1 to 1,000, dealer satisfaction with leads is down to 581 from 613 in 2007.

Third-party auto sites such as are relying more on advertising. They are deemphasizing leads in favor of providing richer information that attracts car buyers. Their feeling is that a limited number of consumers are willing to fill out lead cards, and that many leads are sold over and over again and become stale. Many third-party sites, however, say their value is still judged by the number of leads they produce.

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