Jupiter Research predicts that more than a third of all new car sales will be "Internet-generated" by 2008, saying more and more people will make their buying decisions because of information they've turned up online, whether the actual purchase takes place online or off.

According to Jupiter Research, about 39 percent of all new-car sales will be researched online by 2008. About 19 percent of 2003's new-car buying decisions were made online, for a total of 3 million cars. (About 16 million new cars were sold in the United States in 2003, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.)

One indication of automakers' recognition of the increasing importance of the Internet is the regularity with which new models are introduced online. Ford introduced its new F-150 series with a launch campaign that used ads on the front pages of all three major portals. Volvo was the first to launch a new vehicle solely with online ads, but an online prelude to a larger traditional campaign is fast becoming standard. In the latest example, Volvo is launching an online advertising campaign for its redesigned S40 sedan in conjunction with its unveiling in Detroit this week.

The Jupiter report also addressed sales that were completed on the Internet. Direct online new-car sales will go up from less than 100,000 in 2003 to one million in 2008, according to Jupiter. The 2003 percentage of new-car purchases transacted via the Internet was .6 percent, and the 2008 prediction is 5.4 percent.

According to Jupiter, the used-car market is also doing well online. In 2003, Jupiter said, 7 percent of all used cars sold were Internet-generated, and this is projected to grow to 15 percent of all used cars sold in 2008.