Ivelisse Rosa is the new face of car-buying.
The 25-year-old social media director at Spitzer Automotive Group in Cleveland admits to doing hours of online research and having many conversations with friends and family before buying her first new car, a Chrysler 200 sedan, last October.
Like many others of her generation -- those increasingly influential millennials, or Generation Y buyers -- Rosa chose a practical car with relatively good fuel economy mileage and a 100,000-mile warranty. After all, she's still paying back student loans.
And her buying experience was the type many millennials prefer: haggle-free with plenty of input from her parents, who made sure they were present at the delivery.
"I'm one of those overparented kids of my generation who still ask their parents about everything," said Rosa, a University of Akron (Ohio) graduate who has been promoted through the ranks of the 15-store Spitzer dealership group.
Dealers had better get used to catering to Rosa and her Gen Y contemporaries. They are coming of age. And they demand a level of transparency, tech savvy and barter-free buying unseen in previous generations.
"They are the next big segment of car buyers, and they're defining the buying process," said Dale Pollak, an e-commerce pioneer who is working on his third book on automotive retailing. Pollak founded vAuto, an inventory management vendor for auto dealers that he sold to AutoTrader.com in late 2010.
Millennials are, roughly, the generation of young people born between 1980 and 1998. They grew up with computers and find communicating on them as natural as breathing.
Today they represent two of five car buyers, according to a study last year by consulting firm Deloitte. Some estimates have them purchasing 75 percent of vehicles by 2025.
Yet many dealers resist putting in place the processes and online tools to facilitate business with them, Pollak said. Those include hiring younger sales and service staffers, enabling mobile apps and communication, Web site chat and computer tablets onsite to take a shopper transparently through the buying process, he said.
Those traditional dealers still believe that a sale happens only between a customer and a salesperson in a dealership showroom.
While that's partially true, the path to a sale has changed fundamentally, Pollak said.
More than 90 percent of car shoppers begin the journey online. They visit an average of 18 sites, including Google, online shopping networks and Facebook or other social media, before showing up at a dealership, usually unannounced, industry statistics show.
Millennials though, take online shopping considerably further. They visit an average of 25 sites before buying a vehicle, according to Google, the world's dominant search engine with about two-thirds of all search-engine traffic.
They tend to have less brand loyalty than baby boomers and Gen X shoppers and are willing to switch models and brands if they see value, Stewart Easterby, TrueCar's executive vice president of operations, said at an industry conference this spring.
En route to deciding on a vehicle, 71 percent of millennials on average will seek out family members and friends for advice on the purchase, Easterby said.