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Generation Y car buyers have little patience for the ‘old’ ways of the auto industry. This Internet-savvy group wants good fuel economy in a ride that feels like an extension of their smart phones. Chevy’s answer for this is the 2013 Spark. (General Motors)
Generation Y car buyers have little patience for the ‘old’ ways of the auto industry. This Internet-savvy group wants good fuel economy in a ride that feels like an extension of their smart phones. Chevy’s answer for this is the 2013 Spark. (General Motors)

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Managing in-car gadgets has emerged as one of the great challenges facing the auto business. Each car company has its own approach. GM’s CUE system, for instance, is arriving only in the Cadillac XTS, ATS and SRX for now, but some form of CUE will reach into other GM models, without a doubt – with the richest versions reserved for Caddies.

And on the story goes. As cars load up with features, the need to organize and interact with them becomes critical – and a critical differentiator from model to model and brand to brand.

4. Battle of the mid-size cars

Those looking for a new family four-door priced to start in the low-$20,000s will have plenty of choices for 2013. They include 2013 versions of the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu Nissan Altima and Honda Accord.

The takeaway message: the days of the mid-size “driving appliance” are gone. The newest players come to the struggle boasting sleek and sporty designs wrapped around comfortable packaging for five. Power is coming from responsive and fuel efficient engines tied to six-speed or more automatic transmissions that together send each car maker on the road to meeting tougher 2016 fleet-wide fuel economy rules.

Reliability, of course, really is a given here right across the board, therefore most believe the big differentiators are design and technology.

5. The Millenial car chase

Generation Y buyers – so-called Millennials – are a no-nonsense bunch with big demands and little patience for the “old” ways of the auto industry – from the products themselves to the sales and service experience. Millennials don’t want to haggle at the dealership. They are also Internet-savvy and they want good fuel economy in a reliable ride that feels just like an extension of their ever-present smart phones.

Millennials, say industry and trend experts, will replace the current bulge of aging baby boomers who have for so long been the dominant force in the car business. As Automotive News notes, Gen Y buyers born in the early 1980s through the early 1990s represents two of five car buyers, according to a study last year by consulting firm Deloitte, adding that some estimates have them purchasing 75 per cent of vehicles by 2025.

Auto makers are answering the need here with vehicles like the 2013 Chevrolet Spark small car. GM Canada will sell the Spark with an app called “Bringgo” and in doing so will be able to sell affordable, smartphone-enabled, turn-by-turn navigation for the masses. The Spark and its Bringgo is not about the driving experience at all. The twentysomething Millennials expected to buy it are more interested in staying connected than driving.

Dealers, meanwhile, will need to adapt. Before long, suggests The Detroit News, you can expect to find the most progressive dealerships staffed by young sales people armed with computer tablets who are as comfortable chatting in person as they are online. After all, studies show that more than 90 per cent of car shoppers begin online. Millennials visit an average of 25 sites before buying a vehicle, according to Google. And they are not terribly brand loyal.

The new wave of younger buyers is starting to change not only what is rolling into dealerships, but how the deal is done.

jcato@globeandmail.com

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