New vehicle configurators -online tools that let shoppers specify the exact vehicle they want, calculate its price, and search for it online in car dealers' inventories - are popular with consumers, according to research conducted by Friedman-Swift Associates, an automotive market research firm, and the Cobalt Group, a configurator product provider.

The study reports that 78% of online new car shoppers want dealers to offer new vehicle configurators on their web sites. Such 'helpers' allow shoppers to specify the vehicle they want, choosing the vehicle make, model, style, colour, finish, options and price. The tool then shows the vehicle's suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and dealer invoice price [where required], and searches a dealership's existing inventory for the closest match to a vehicle available for immediate sale.

"Configurators are one of several features consumers now want to see on car dealers' web sites," noted Judy George, senior vice president of Friedman- Swift Associates. "More car buyers use dealership web sites as part of their shopping process than ever before and these buyers want to be well informed before they enter the showroom."