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NEW YORK — Dealers and automakers now can obtain a better sense of what customers are saying about brands and vehicles through social networking Web sites. J.D. Power and Associates launched a new tool on Wednesday — the J.D. Power Auto Intelligence Monitor — that executives believe is the first industry-specific social media listening platform.

Company officials explained that this new tool was created by the J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Research Division. They stressed that the Automotive Intelligence Monitor combines the company's 40 years of consumer expertise with the ability to listen to unprompted consumer conversations in social media.

J.D. Power contends that this tool can allow dealers and automakers to assess new-vehicle launches, brand image and marketing strategies in a way never before available.

How this new tool works is it can combine insights from social media conversations about automaker brands and models with marketplace retail sales and segment data from J.D. Power's Power Information Network. Executives think the results can produce a social media monitoring tool that goes beyond simply measuring conversation volume.

"The Auto Intelligence Monitor generates industry benchmarks to help automakers and agencies better position brands and models in adapting to changing consumer needs," J.D. Power stated.

Beyond that stance, J.D. Power offered two more advantages it believes the Auto Intelligence Monitor can provide.

First, the tool can classify social media commentary according to an arrangement containing 37 automakers, nearly 300 models and 12 key topics of automotive conversation.

Next, J.D. Power indicated that its Web Intelligence Research Division's patent-pending technology can virtually eliminate irrelevant conversations. Officials emphasize how it can ensure marketers are receiving accurate consumer conversations about their brands and products. 

"These two elements make the Auto Intelligence Monitor more than a tool that measures the volume or sentiment of online conversations," explained Bill Tuohig, senior director of the Web Intelligence Research Division at J.D. Power.

"More importantly, it is a tool that marketers and agencies can use to more effectively gauge marketplace success using online consumer conversations, based on independent third-party benchmarks," Tuohig continued.

J.D. Power noted that the tool can be displayed as a dashboard on the user's desktop. Officials went on to point out that the Auto Intelligence Monitor can be refreshed daily, and it includes two years of historical data for the entire industry.

Furthermore, users can choose to customize and filter the information to meet their specific needs.

"For a deeper look at the keywords and conversations that are moving the needle in an automaker's brand perception, users can click on a given metric in any one of the graphs in their dashboard for verbatim commentary from social media users," J.D. Power highlighted.

J.D. Power also believes that new-vehicle launches are a key area in which the Auto Intelligence Monitor can assist dealers and automakers with tracking market perceptions and consumer reception of their models.

"Executing successful vehicle launches is critical to an automaker's financial success, and the Auto Intelligence Monitor allows automakers to gather current feedback regarding consumer perception of newly launched models," Tuohig stated.

"It also provides perspective on how they've performed as compared to other recent vehicle launches," he continued. "Gathering this critical information early in the launch process gives manufacturers the ability to make key adjustments, as necessary, to optimize the model's success."

Along with brand perception and appeal of specific vehicles, J.D. Power mentioned that the Auto Intelligence Monitor can cover a variety of industry topics of consumer conversation. Officials gave examples such as "green" issues, safety, performance, styling and design, value, features and technology, manufacturer business issues, and marketing and communications efforts.