Detroit, Michigan – “Generation Y” will make automakers work for their brand loyalty, from design all the way through to the sale, according to a new survey by Deloitte. The report, Gaining Speed: Gen Y in the Driver’s Seat has uncovered a series of shifts in how this generation, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of the U.S. population, views the shopping experience.

By 2012, Gen Y will account for approximately 40 per cent of the car-buying population and will be a new breed of confident consumers who are independent, tech-savvy, engaged, demanding and, according to the survey, just the group to help rejuvenate the auto industry.

“Our analysis of the survey findings points to technology as a key generational differentiator,” said Craig Giffi, vice-chairman and automotive practice leader for Deloitte. “For baby boomers, technology is largely utilitarian and defined by safety features, whereas Gen Y views technology as a more personal feature. They see their cars as personal technology cocoons and expect so-called ‘cockpit technology,’ where they can continue to run their lives uninterrupted, from messaging to music to the latest smart phone apps, 24/7.”

More than 82 per cent of Gen Y consumers say they are excited to shop for a vehicle, versus 71.2 per cent of Gen X and 66.3 per cent of baby boomer respondents expressing the same sentiment. Gen Y is particularly loyal when it comes to automobile brands, with 42 per cent of respondents in last year’s survey and 48 per cent this year saying they expect to be driving the same vehicle brand in five years. However, they are fairly unforgiving, with 52.4 per cent agreeing that a bad experience with a salesperson would prevent them from ever considering the brand again.

Some trends from the survey include:

– Gen Y respondents said they are still largely unsatisfied and anxious with the overall buying experience, and their main reason for visiting a dealer is to test-drive a vehicle. A little more than 82 per cent would like to test-drive a vehicle over 24 hours, and more than 57 per cent would prefer to avoid face-to-face interaction with a dealer and instead work with them solely over the Internet.

– Nearly 67 per cent of Gen Y respondents look for advice or information on blogs or social media forums before purchasing a vehicle.

– Roughly 70 per cent of Gen Y respondents said they are likely to sway a friend’s vehicle purchase, versus 60 per cent of Gen X and 50 per cent of baby boomers who said the same, and slightly more than 61 per cent of Gen Y respondents said they directly influence the final purchase decision made by their parents. Of Gen Y respondents, 88.7 per cent ask friends for their opinions about a brand or model before buying a car, and 79.6 per cent said their friends have a large influence on their purchase decision. The survey found that Gen Y consumers are very influential overall and will actively promote a brand even if they don’t buy the car.

– About 67 per cent said that product recalls were of some concern, but more than 67 per cent would still consider buying a brand despite a recall.

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