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How Millennials are Reshaping Car Buying

The American love affair with cars isn't dead — it's just being reshaped by millennials. Often saddled with debt, young shoppers are looking for smaller, cheaper vehicles, according to new research by AutoTrader. They're also far more likely to do their research online, often with their smartphones. Millennials' delay in purchasing vehicles reflects other things they're doing later in life, such as buying a home and getting married, said Isabelle Helms, AutoTrader's vice president of research. According to AutoTrader's study, which interviewed 1,900 new and used car shoppers, millennials are "big on small" vehicles, which tend to be more affordable and easier to operate in the urban settings where many of them live. Their desire for more fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles also sparks an interest in alternative-powered vehicles, though they generally can't afford them. Regardless of millennials' slow entry into the market, automakers need to pay attention to the needs of that generation, defined by AutoTrader as 18 to 34 years old. Millennials will account for 40 percent of new car purchases by 2020, Helms said.

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-Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau