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At J.D. Power and Associates’ Automotive Internet Roundtable in Las Vegas this week, several speakers said they believe mobile search and services are an increasingly important part of auto marketing — assertions backed up by J.D. Power research showing that 18 percent of auto shoppers use mobile during the car buying process, up from 15 percent in 2007. The same research said mobile use was especially strong for luxury brands such as Land Rover, Mercedes and Jaguar.

Mike Sage from Universal City Nissan said he’s incorporated mobile into his marketing mix, and now has 600 text messages flowing back and forth between dealer and customer every month, including text, video and click-to-call. “It doesn’t replace the Web site, but it is another source of information,” he said.

Sharon Knitter, the longtime Tribune Internet executive who now runs the mobile program for, said the company launched mobile in 2007 with the twin goals of extending the brand and delivering “best of” content.

The mobile site receives four million page views per month, and is growing 10 percent to 15 percent per month. People are using the site when they are out shopping, she said. “They used to see a new model, and then have to go home to look it up on the computer.” Now, 39 percent call right from the lot, and 40 percent use click-to-call. Mobile is also used by dealers to send information to customers. “They say ‘give me your cell number’ and send them information right there.”

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