As automakers know all too well, Americans have a love-hate relationship with cars. And as if that weren't bad enough, J.D. Power has just revealed that brand loyalty -- the thing that brought our parents back to the same dealership year after year -- is dying a slow death. Among Generation Y (better known as Millennials), it's limping toward life-support.
That news comes from Power's 2013 New Autoshopper Study, which focused heavily on Automotive Internet Users (in J.D. Power lingo, "AIUs"). As you might guess, AIUs are shoppers who use the internet to research automotive options before heading into showrooms. The study fielded responses from 17,012 folks who either purchased or leased new vehicles from the 2011, 2012, or 2013 model years.
It should come as no surprise that 79 percent of car shoppers research vehicles online. What's a bit shocking though, is that when consumers begin the shopping process, 50 percent are open to any auto brand. Among Millennials, the situation is worse: 54 percent. That doesn't simply mean that they're shopping two or three select brands, it means that they're looking at the full range of options.
What's also interesting is that, of those who research online, 98 percent visit manufacturer sites. The majority (83 percent) also visit dealership sites, as well as third party sites (80 percent) like The Car Connection. Of those three, most consumers find third-party and manufacturer websites to be the most useful. (Ed. note: Thanks!)
Why is that interesting? Because marketing logic tells us that recommendations from friends carry the most weight with shoppers, but J.D. Power found that only seven percent of shoppers used social media sites like Facebook to gather information. Could the marketing gurus be wrong?
And last but not least -- at least for tech nerds like us -- J.D. Power shows that the number of people doing research on tablets is booming. In fact, 25 percent of AIU's surf for cars on their tablets, compared to 23 percent on smartphones.
What does all this data tell us? For starters, automakers need to do a better job of instilling a sense of brand loyalty. It's alive and well in other industries, so why not here? Are today's auto brands really that indistinguishable from one another?
And second, automakers need to focus increasing attention on their websites, making them mobile-friendly and easy to use. We won't name names, but some car companies still rely on flash sites so wonky they drive us to drink. (Ed. note: He means "drink more".) Won't someone please think of our livers?