A group of Generation Y members surveyed who had bought a vehicle within three months said they visited on average 3.1 dealerships before buying vs. 2.5 visits for the slightly older Gen Xers and 1.9 for older-still baby boomers.
Helms said millennials tend to be thorough with online and in-store vehicle research, making trips to dealerships a key part of the shopping journey.
But after the experience, they said they were much more likely than their older counterparts to avoid interacting with salespeople in the future for fear of high-pressure sales tactics. Fifty-six percent said so vs. 49 percent for Gen Xers and 37 percent for baby boomers.
Helms said millennials head to dealerships thinking they'll have a laidback Apple Store experience and end up not wanting to go back. "That reflects their dealership experience," Helms said.
The study, titled "The Next Generation Car Buyer," was administered online by Harris Interactive of 1,657 millennials, 993 Gen Xers and 1,062 baby boomers. The survey of attitudes was taken Jan. 7-25.
Helms was in Detroit today as part of an Automotive Press Association luncheon program.
Millennials make up 75 million of the U.S. population and purchased 25 percent of all vehicles in 2012.
The study also punctured the myth that millennials are blasé about car ownership. The main reason they don't own one is that they can't afford one, the study showed.
In fact, millennials are much more likely than their older counterparts to view vehicles as status symbols.
The study found that 38 percent of millennials surveyed said it was important to them that their vehicles reflect their accomplishments vs. 28 percent for Gen Xers and 27 percent for boomers.
Millennials by 48 percent also said their cars should reflect their personalities compared with 38 percent and 34 percent, respectively, for Gen Xers and boomers.