Survey: Car makers should target young customers on Facebook

The sponsored by Microsoft among about a thousand young adults -- "millennials" born 1980 to 1990 -- suggest that auto makers can cut back on pricey TV commercials and use social networks to reach out to potential buyers aged 18 to 28. They're already doing that, of course. Search for "Camaro" on Facebook to see Chevrolet's ads.

One surprise in the surveys is that nearly everyone still wants to visit a dealer when shopping for a car. That doesn't mean they want to talk with dealers, however -- a self-serve kiosk at the dealership would make one in two customers more comfortable:

When comparison shopping for a car, the majority of millennials prefer to visit dealers in person (91 percent), but roughly half (52 percent) would prefer to use self-service kiosks or mobile devices at the dealership to automate the shopping process versus talking to a person. In addition, 89 percent will compare products, services and rates on company Web sites, while large percentages of millennials report they will seek advice from third-party consumer Web sites (65 percent), third-party consumer blogs (45 percent), friends or colleagues via social networking sites (61 percent), and friends and family (87 percent).

There's no substitute for a test drive, and most people still trust their real-world friends rather than their Facebook friends.

The results of the surveys had two other interesting findings. First, online brochures are now a standard part of the car-shopping experience, so it's important that they be easy to use and that they work properly on all popular browsers (translation: Don't build something too crazy). Second, in this tough market a prolific online representative, like , could help sell some cars.