Even millennials bypass social media during car-buying journey

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Despite years of hype by automakers and dealers, social media remain a non-starter for car shopping.

Just 1 percent of car buyers use social sites to shop for a vehicle, according to an AutoTrader.com survey.

Even millennials, those young people between the ages of 18 and 34 attracted to social media, barely use sites such as Facebook and Twitter for car shopping, said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence for AutoTrader.com.

Only 5 percent of millennials surveyed said they used social media to shop for vehicles, the study showed.

“Millennials are apathetic about whether auto Web sites or brands have a social presence,” Helms said. She added that 78 percent of millennials in the study said their attitude toward a car brand would not change if the brand had a social networking presence.

Helms said social media is used to network with friends, not to shop for cars.

AutoTrader.com’s study was conducted by IHS Automotive between December and February. A total of 1,900 car buyers within the past year were surveyed, including about 300 millennials.

Helms and AutoTrader.com executives were scheduled to present the findings this afternoon at a luncheon meeting of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.

Although they are bypassing social media, millennials are making the Internet and mobile devices mainstays of car shopping.

Ninety-five percent of millennials car shop online, spending online 82 percent of the average 17.6 hours they take to research and buy a car. By comparison, all 1,900 respondents on average took 15.5 hours to research and buy a car, with 75 percent of the time online.

Smartphones and other mobile devices also are crucial to a millennial’s car shopping. Fifty-one percent of millennials used a smartphone to shop for a vehicle vs. 34 percent a year ago.

By 2020, Helms predicts 80 percent of car shoppers will use multiple devices for shopping, including smartphones, tablets and desktops, vs. 32 percent today.

You can reach David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com. -- Follow David on Twitter and


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