By on January 29, 2008

woman-car-keys-001.jpgIn Harris Interactive survey-speak, "Influentials" are American adults who describe themselves as either 'very' or 'extremely' knowledgeable about cars. Harris estimates that around 19 percent of American adults fall into this category. These Influentials– or automotive alphas as we like to call them– are far more likely to use the internet for auto info than "Non-Influentials" (63 percent vs. 36 percent). Harris Interactive's Director of Automotive & Transportation Research says the research shows that "Non-influentials seek out Influentials for vehicle advice." But, Stephen Lovett maintains, "they are more likely than Influentials to rely on their shopping experience to make their final vehicle choice." It's nice to see TTAC Best and Brightest get the statistical recognition they deserve, and sad to see so many people fall into the clutches of nefarious car salespeople. Now can someone send a memo to our ad reps?

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26 Comments on “Are You an Influential?...”


  • avatar
    86er

    …but are much less likely to use an automotive salesperson as an information source (17 percent vs. 38 percent).

    Agreed.

    It’s a lonely life though, if you don’t know very many other “influentials”.

  • avatar
    jrlombard

    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/122/is-the-tipping-point-toast.html

    An interesting article in Fast Company on this topic. Not saying that I agree with the author, but it certainly did challenge this guy’s marketing brain. I was going to send this to RF anyway.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    if there were as many real car manufacturing companies as there are harrises Interactives, we would be in car paradise.(no criticizing, just practising 2nd conditional). As we have only `interactive` plethora, we neither can afford nor have a choice for real domestic metal.

  • avatar

    I’m more of a Cassandra. Not that I expect anyone to believe that …

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    But none of the non-influentials ever take my advice on vehicle purchases for reasons inlcuding, it doesn’t come in a color I like, I’m trading in my current car and don’t want to have to go to another dealership to shop, and eh I don’t really care that much. I guess I’m not really that much of and influential. Sigh.

  • avatar

    Agreed 86er Thats what makes TTAC a great site.

  • avatar
    86er

    But none of the non-influentials ever take my advice on vehicle purchases for reasons inlcuding, it doesn’t come in a color I like, I’m trading in my current car and don’t want to have to go to another dealership to shop, and eh I don’t really care that much. I guess I’m not really that much of and influential. Sigh.

    Tell me about it.

    They know next to nothing about vehicles but don’t want to come off as incompetent when it comes to their second most importance purchasing decision (after their home) so tend to be dismissive.

  • avatar
    brianmack

    but are much less likely to use an automotive salesperson as an information source

    Quick poll: Has anyone here walked into a car dealership and known LESS about the car than the salesman? Anyone…anyone…?

  • avatar
    86er

    Quick poll: Has anyone here walked into a car dealership and known LESS about the car than the salesman? Anyone…anyone…?

    It would depend on the brand.

    But since I’ve never been in any of the dealerships of which I have no interest, perhaps a moot point.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    But none of the non-influentials ever take my advice on vehicle purchases for reasons inlcuding, it doesn’t come in a color I like, I’m trading in my current car and don’t want to have to go to another dealership to shop, and eh I don’t really care that much. I guess I’m not really that much of and influential. Sigh.

    Tell me about it.

    Amen brothers. After enough frustrating conversations you just have to say “go buy the effing Honda/Toyota, then. Why are are you wasting my time?” (Because I love talking about cars and motorcycles. To the point of being an absolute bore.) A lot of people have their minds made up. They’re just looking for approval from a friendly “expert”.

    Has anyone here walked into a car dealership and known LESS about the car than the salesman? Anyone…anyone…?

    Not lately. Sometimes the car salescritters get to go on boondoggles to track days or a factory in Europe, and I like hearing about that stuff. But about a car I’m interested in? It’s very rare that they offer a detail I don’t already know. They might pretend to have some dish on a new models/features though.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    My wife and kids wont listen to me, does that make me an influential?

  • avatar
    86er

    A lot of people have their minds made up. They’re just looking for approval from a friendly “expert”.

    Ah yes, nothing like being tasked to act as the effervescent echo chamber.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    When I was selling planes, I was extremely knowledgable about the planes I was selling. Still, I often found I could learn new things from my customers.

    I suspect a lot of car salesmen give up trying. Since they get lied to by their managers about everything, they would have to do the research themselves. My manager tried to fill me full of all sorts of lies.

    From a customer perspective, I did once learn a lot from a BMW salesman. He had only been on the job a few weeks. Before that, he had been running the service department.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Looking at the responses of several of you on the actions on non-enthusiasts to your advise would tend to support the studies claims.

    So, if only 2% of the “non-s” are influenced by us are we “influentials” actually influential?

    That said, I have found others take my advise more often if I am thinking about what kind of vehicle will satisfy their needs and desires rather than what I think would be “cool” for them to own.
    And I can’t, in good conscience, recommend any vehicle with a poor reliability record. Even to people I dislike.

  • avatar
    AuricTech

    Well, last week I was an influenza….

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    And I can’t, in good conscience, recommend any vehicle with a poor reliability record. Even to people I dislike.

    Ow, I can. I once recommended to a D.C.-area colleague I despised that they should buy an Explorer. This was at the height of D.C. carjackings, and the Explorer was number one with a bullet on the thieve’s charts.

  • avatar
    AKM

    But none of the non-influentials ever take my advice on vehicle purchases for reasons inlcuding, it doesn’t come in a color I like, I’m trading in my current car and don’t want to have to go to another dealership to shop, and eh I don’t really care that much. I guess I’m not really that much of and influential. Sigh.

    Sixthted (is that a word?). Buying a car is such an emotional purchase that most people don’t listen to advice or come up with their own, often misguided reasons. A friend a mine, severely overweight and with chronic knee problems, bought an explorer so she can “go skiing in the winter”, like she did when she was 18 and 110lbs. She hasn’t even exercised for the last 5 years…..-sigh-
    My father-in-law still cannot believe that my VW Gold can even reach highway speeds, because “it only has a 4-cyl engine”. Nevermind that his rental Opel wagon loaded with luggage reached 130mph on the autobhan…and it sure wasn’t a V-6.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    guyincognito: But none of the non-influentials ever take my advice on vehicle purchases…

    But, it came with the custom “classy” landau-style vinyl roof!

    But, I got SUCH a good deal on the Excursion!

    brianmack: Quick poll: Has anyone here walked into a car dealership and known LESS about the car than the salesman? Anyone…anyone…?

    Well, no. But theoretically it could happen.

    Bunter1: And I can’t, in good conscience, recommend any vehicle with a poor reliability record. Even to people I dislike.

    In L.A., years ago, it was widely said that the perfect car for your ex-wife was a Maserati Biturbo.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Sometimes it’s just a matter of developing experience. After impulsively buying a Grand Cherokee and an XC90, that were constantly in the shop my in-laws finally asked me for advice about what to buy. Now they have a Lexus, and rave about it.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I get asked about cars all of the time, but its usually about car repairs, including calls about quick and dirty fixes to drive the car to the repair shop. How can they use the term “influentials” then say that the advice seekers rarely take the “influentials” advice?

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    Absolutely.

    And the past few times I’ve been in a dealership, I’ve known 20 times more about the cars than the salesperson…..another reason why I despise dealerships.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    Its no great feat knowing more about the cars than the salesman. There seems to be so much turnover in that job that the guy who’s selling you a Chrysler this week was probably selling vacuum cleaners at Sears last week.

    Except in my case, no salesman would ever be selling me a Chrysler…

  • avatar
    becurb

    # brianmack :

    Quick poll: Has anyone here walked into a car dealership and known LESS about the car than the salesman? Anyone…anyone…?

    Ummm, yeah, actually. I was looking to replace my Crapalier, and decided to get a compact 4×4 pick up.

    Now, having a long, long, long dislike of Ford, my choices were basically the Chebby S-10/ZR-2(?) or its clone, the GMC “Highrider”. Of course, after describing exactly what I was after, the @$$hole salesman at the Chebby dealer exhaled his cigarette laden breath on me, and pronounced that “most people looking to by a 4×4 get the Z-71″.

    So much for the Chebby. The nearest GMC dealer confessed that he would love to have a Highrider on the lot, but his manager would not spring for it. Since the GMC dealer also happened to be a Honda/Toyota dealer, I glumly considered the Toyota “Truck”, as the pre-Tacoma model was called.

    I described what I was looking for (V-6, 5 spd, locking hubs). The Toyota salesman thought for a moment, and allowed that he thought there was one such vehicle on the lot. It was – the just introduced 1995 1/2 MY Tacoma. I had no idea there was such a beastie…

    I took it home. I never regretted it. GM regretted the move, but, well, tough. The light pole I wrapped it around, on the other hand…

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Quick poll: Has anyone here walked into a car dealership and known LESS about the car than the salesman? Anyone…anyone…?

    Do they train them to know anything about the cars, or just say anything to sell them?

    Caddy salesmen that argued the new CTS doesn’t have Direct injection.
    Chevy dealer telling me the Malibu had even better AWD than my Subaru, AWD?

    V6′s with all new DOHC engines that turn out to be ancient push rods when I pop the hood.

    It’s comical sometimes to see how little they know about the products they make their living off of.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Nah, I’m an idiot savant. I’m only knowledgable about E 28 BMWs and SJ Jeeps. I wouldnt be caught dead in a dealership.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Redbarchetta said:

    “It’s comical sometimes to see how little they know about the products they make their living off of.”

    Here is the thing. They do not make their livings off of cars. A few of them do, but most do not.

    If you were to shadow a top dollar car salesman, you would find that he makes his money off of people, not cars. I know it sounds semantic, but it’s not. While many dealers will have one, maybe two really good guys that make a good living off repeat and referral business, the rest of the money makers are simply better at picking the right customers, closing them on a deal, and negotiating higher dollars out of them.

    The car is just a prop in their magic act.


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