The days when buying a new (or used) vehicle meant devoting entire Sunday afternoons to visiting dealerships, eating free hot dogs and kicking tires could be gone forever.
In a global survey of more than 8,000 prospective car buyers, 94% of the respondents said they use the Internet as a research tool.
At the same time, chatter about vehicles and dealerships on social media sites is carrying more weight in the car-buying process, according to the survey by the Paris-based consulting firm Capgemini.
Some 71% of the respondents said they likely would purchase a vehicle from a particular automaker or dealer if they found positive comments posted on social media sites.
Conversely, 51% said they would be less likely to purchase a vehicle if they found negative comments posted on social media sites.
“We’ve been surprised at how fast social media has really become an integral part of the process for research,” says Nick Gill, Capgemini’s Global Automotive Sector leader, who likens user-generated content about vehicles and dealerships to “online word of mouth.” The buying cycle continues to shrink.
“When people come into the dealerships, they’re serious about buying,” Gill tells Industry Week. “They’re not just coming for a fun ride.”
Indeed, 43% of the respondents to the Capgemini survey said they won’t visit a showroom until a month prior to purchase, up from 39% in the previous year’s survey.
To provide some perspective on how rapidly the Internet has become a dominant force in the car-buying process, only 20% of Capgemini survey respondents said they used the Internet as a vehicle-research tool in 2002. That’s approaching 100% today.
The Capgemini survey also points to a growing interest in buying vehicles, parts and accessories on the Internet.
Some 42% of the respondents said they were likely to purchase a vehicle online, up from 37% two years ago.
“Price discount, along with ease and speed of transaction, are cited by consumers as the main reason to purchase a vehicle over the Internet,” Capgemini says.
Not surprisingly, younger consumers are the most enthusiastic about buying online, with 43% of survey respondents in the 18-to-34-year-old age group indicating that they were likely to purchase a vehicle online, compared with 36% of those 50 or older.