This is despite the fact that China has a relatively low level of internet use: the country's 1.3 billion people only have 160 million internet connections between them.
After friends and family, the internet is seen as the second most useful and credible source of information for potential car buyers in China, the Taylor Nelson Sofres survey found.
More than 30 percent of respondents said that the internet is a 'quality' source of car buying information.
Online channels such as blogs and forums are likely to be more effective marketing channels than traditional billboards and commercials, the survey suggested.
Compared to the professional patter of sales personnel, buyers are far more likely to believe information they read online.
"Right now, China's car buyers have little trust in China's car dealers," said Klaus Paur, automotive director at Taylor Nelson Sofres China.
Profits in China's automobile market rose 46 percent in 2006 to reach US$10bn. Car sales rose 34 percent to 4.4 million, while total vehicle sales reached 7.2 million.
"Our survey raises the question of whether domestic and foreign car manufacturers are spending their money in the best way," said Paur.
"If they develop a strong online presence and deliver a rich stream of online news into the marketplace through chat rooms, blogs, press releases and trade reviews, they are doing the right thing.
"Our research also shows that car manufacturers investing in international, regional and local auto shows are also putting their money where it counts."
More than 1,000 residents of Chinese cities were questioned in the survey, which was conducted jointly by Taylor Nelson Sofres and international business services firm KPMG.
Chinese car buyers steer online
By Simon Burns on Jul 24, 2007 10:59AM