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Carmakers should focus on tech to capture future sales

Technology may be the key to engaging the estimated 80 million people of the “millennial generation” — those born between 1981 and 2000 — as automotive consumers, according to a new US survey by Microsoft. 

The Microsoft “Millennials in Automotive Survey 2009,” conducted by Washington, D.C.-based KRC Research, found that not only do millennials have heightened expectations as to how carmakers should interact with them via high-tech channels, but also they expect to use newer, more innovative technologies in their eventual places of employment.

Dave Graff, US automotive industry solutions director, Microsoft, said: “Millennials represent an untapped market for many carmakers, as these younger adults are now entering the workplace and purchasing vehicles on their own for the first time.

“However, for carmakers to court these tech-savvy consumers, they need to embrace newer technologies as a way to communicate and sell more effectively to them.”

Millennials as car consumers

According to Microsoft research from 2008, millennials reported using a wide variety of technology tools in their day-to-day lives, such as social networking sites (77%), instant messaging (IM) (71%), and wikis (59%).

Half of those surveyed subscribed to more than one social networking site, 64% frequented them daily and 33% reported spending 30 minutes or more for each visit.

The survey further revealed that 91% reported that it is important for auto manufacturers to offer web sites that give a full view of purchase options and service history, while 86% and 87%, respectively, said that web-based auto financing and service requests, and customization of car options, such as color and add-ons, were important.

Beyond the web, millennials in the survey reported wanting to interact with carmakers through IM (56%) and other popular high-tech channels. For example, 74% want to be able to visit automotive company-hosted blogs to post concerns or ask questions; 52% want to get mobile alerts regarding new car releases, price drops and more; and 44% sought to network with other car enthusiasts through automotive company-supported social networking sites, Facebook or MySpace groups.

When comparison shopping for a car, the majority of millennials prefer to visit dealers in person (91%), but roughly half (52%) would prefer to use self-service kiosks or mobile devices at the dealership to automate the shopping process versus talking to a person.

In addition, 89% will compare products, services and rates on company websites, while large percentages of millennials report they will seek advice from third-party consumer websites (65%), third-party consumer blogs (45%), friends or colleagues via social networking sites (61%), and friends and family (87%).

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