Millennials Want New Tech from ‘Old’ Auto Industry

February 19, 2009

More than half (56%) of Millennial-generation consumers in the US think the auto industry is “old,” and 33% say it is not innovative, yet most believe that auto companies’ use of technology will be key to engaging them in the future, according to a survey from Microsoft, conducted by KRC Research.

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As the struggling US auto industy tries to stay afloat with government bailout help, the 80 million people of the Millennial generation (born 1981-2001) have heightened expectations as to how automakers should interact with them via high-tech channels.

Millennials Want Auto Info Online

In terms of buying vehicles, the “Millennials in Automotive Survey 2009” finds that an overwhelming majority (91%) of Millennial-generation auto consumers feel it is important for auto manufacturers to offer websites that give them a full view of purchase options and service history, while 86% want web-based auto financing and service requests, and 87% want customization of car options, such as color and add-ons.

Additional survey findings:

  • 56% of Millennials want to interact with automakers through instant messaging (56%).
  • 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.
  • 44% seek to network with other auto enthusiasts through automotive company-supported social networking sites, Facebook or MySpace groups.

Car Shopping Preferences

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

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The survey also found that 89% will compare products, services and rates on company websites, while large percentages of Millennials 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%).

“Automakers and dealers already face enormous problems around operational costs, union contracts and the credit crisis,” said Dave Graff, US automotive industry solutions director, Microsoft. “As the largest wave of consumers entering the market since the Baby Boomers, Millennials represent an amazing opportunity for automakers to tap into a new customer base. However, this requires a larger strategy toward leveraging customer-facing technology for competitive advantage – such as social networking sites, instant messaging and mobility.”

Millennials as Auto Workers

Although the current economic crisis has limited the ability of automakers and other companies to hire, the average age of an American autoworker is now 55 – creating a potential labor shortage for the industry in the near future, Microsoft said. To court Millennials as employees, automakers will need to leverage technology as a recruiting tool. To that end, 87% of millennials said that being able to work with “newer, innovative technologies” in the workplace would make them more likely to consider a job opportunity:

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Millennials surveyed who are employed also had clear expectations of their employers’ providing specific types of technologies for their use in the workplace. These included company-provided PCs (62%), mobile and smartphones (32%), internal company IM (32%), access to social networking sites (28%), company intranets and portals (49%), and company-provided virtual meetings (27%).

A potential hurdle in recruiting younger workers into the automotive industry may be their perception of the industry itself, the survey found. More than half of Millennials believe the industry is “old in general,” while large percentages also mentioned the industry “does not offer career stability” (52%), has “older workers” (55%) and has a “poor public image” (53%).

About the survey: The survey was conducted by KRC Research from Jan. 5 – 12, 2009, and garnered responses from 400 young adults in the US who were born between 1980 and 1990.

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