In past generations, consumers were influenced by friends and advertising when it came to choosing a new car.
You might notice when your neighbor drove home in a new set of wheels and consider the same model yourself if he raved about it. Meanwhile, car companies spend millions on advertising to shape consumer tastes.
The digital age has brought change. Now it's very common to research a vehicle online, checking the specs and consumer feedback before making a decision.
Auto Insurance Center study
Social media can also play a role, since that's how most people tend to communicate these days. The Auto Insurance Center has studied 23 major car brands and their 114 million American Facebook fans to look for trends in fan demographics, political orientations, and career paths.
Specifically, it wanted to know which brands have the most fans and how that influences sales. Additionally, how do companies’ marketing efforts impact consumer perceptions – and prompt users to click “like?”
Here's what it found.
Among the most “liked” models on Facebook, there is little correlation between likes and sales.
For example, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Ferrari occupy the top three spots in terms of Facebook following. Mercedes-Benz has an impressive 19.4 million Facebook fans, but the company only sold around 1.7 million vehicles in 2014. Ford, on the other hand, failed to crack the top 10 list with its 3.1 million Facebook fans, but it sold more than 6.3 million vehicles worldwide.
Just kicking tires
The assumption is that consumers may “like” a particular luxury car, even though they can't afford to buy it. In the vernacular of the industry, they're just kicking tires. But the Center says it's worth noting that high-end luxury vehicles are the fastest-growing segment in terms of sales in the U.S.
The data gets more interesting when you see who “likes” what. You might expect teens to be the ones dreaming of driving a luxury sports car, but the study shows Dodge has the most new teen drivers as fans. Oddly, they share their affection for Dodge with people engaged in farming.
Ford is apparently seen as a family car. It has the most married fans. Grandparents, meanwhile, are most likely to “like” Chrysler.
Jeep vs. Jaguar
And no surprise – Tesla, with its $100,000-plus sticker price, has the richest fans, as well as those most likely to work in the technology industry.
What does all this mean? For automakers, it may mark a departure from how they tried to influence buying decisions in the past. In the future, they may rely less on advertising and more on the persuasiveness of millions of your neighbors, giving a simple thumbs up on Facebook.