For the past few years, auto manufacturers have been casting a wary eye at young adults. Like no generation before them, this group seemed to have little interest in owning a car. But as the economy is rebounding, young adults are finding jobs and are starting to wander onto dealer lots.

The recession was particularly unkind to young adults, especially those who just graduated from college with huge debt. Instead of finding jobs and buying cars, many of these consumers have been forced to move back home and depend on the bank of Mom and Dad.  Reporting for USA Today, James Healey cites J.D. Power and Associates data showing that 23% of auto buyers this year are in the 18-35 year old category, a notable increase over recent years. Similarly, Polk  and TrueCar.com data indicates that 12% of new car buyers this year are ages 18-34. That’s a lower figure than the peak of 16.4% in 2007 but the numbers are headed in the right direction.

In addition to the improving job market, younger consumers may be more interested in the new car market these days because financing is easier to obtain and because the used car they’re trading in may be worth more. Some analysts believe that younger consumers overall may be less interested in buying cars because they do their socializing online. However, that’s only one part of a consumer’s life. For the vast majority who don’t have access to reliable public transportation, the allure of owning a vehicle to travel to and from work and to run errands will grow as their economic independence increases.

Auto dealers have a big interest in courting younger demographics. If they can build a relationship with a young client, loyalty will pay off in future sales as the consumer trades up so dealers should be rolling out campaigns targeting Millennials.

The Auto Buyers Forecast – New Vehicles, covers buyer intention, media influence, brand preference and more to help researchers better understand this market. The report is available on the Research Store at ad-ology.com.

[Source: Healey, James. New car buying by young rises. USAToday.com. 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2012]