MIKE COLIAS

Why millennials are a double-edged sword for dealers

Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.
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ORLANDO -- There's been a lot of ink spilled about why car dealers must go out of their way to court young people.

So-called millennials -- people in their teens to early 30s -- are more fickle. They're not necessarily turned on by cars. And oh yeah, there are 80 million of them in the U.S., more than the baby boom generation.

Here's one more reason: They're more likely to help -- or harm -- a dealership's reputation.

Young people tend to seek out ratings and customer reviews online more so than older folks. Thirty percent of young buyers took to the Web to find out what others thought of their cars and their dealers, vs. 23 percent of baby boomers, according to results of a survey presented here at the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable.

Logic follows that those young people also are contributing a disproportionate share to dealerships' online ratings. They may not want to spend much time in the store, as plenty of research shows, but they're doing more than their share to shape the conversation online, whether with a tweet or Yelp review.

That means when it comes to a dealership's online reputation -- is there any other kind these days? -- taking good care of a customer who has bought five cars over the years might not be as important as satisfying the 24-year-old rookie buyer.

The takeaway: Ignore young buyers and risk missing out on growth. Reach them -- but don't leave them satisfied -- and risk your reputation.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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