Car Dealership Sales & Marketing Strategies to Reach Generation Z

By 2020, Generation Z will account for a whopping 40% of all consumers. Generation Z is the up and coming generation, born after 1995, and they’re already proving that they’re a totally different group of shoppers than Millennials. Here are some of our best car dealership marketing strategies to reach Gen Z.

Price and Practicality

What The Data Tell Us:

Generation X and early Millennials were starting families, their first real job, college, or high school in the worst of the Recession, and that has left an intense impact on these shoppers’ psyches. While these groups were sweating over bills just as they lost their jobs to pay them, Gen Z were kids, growing up during a period of household belt-tightening and watching their parents struggle.

The results? Generation Z is very aware of money – but not in the same way Millennials or Generation X are. Gen Z ranks price as the most important component when buying a car, but most of Gen Z is still reliant on their parents, who are almost certainly the ones paying for a new car from a dealership – or at least helping. Potential price for a car is most likely not being set by teenagers.

The difference between the Generation X or Millennial views of price and Gen Z is revealed by the sharp drop in caring about getting a deal. A study revealed that 67% percent of millennials would go to the website to get a coupon, whereas only 46% of Gen Z  said they would do the same. When it comes to car dealership marketing, this is not a difference that can be ignored.

Car Dealership Marketing Strategy:

So, what does all of this mean for your car dealership marketing? Don’t market to Gen Z using coupons or promotional deals. Gen Z are concerned about price, but not about bargain hunting. Don’t try to get Gen Z shoppers to your lot by spamming them with coupons, discounts, and promotions. Instead, try reaching out to them with transparent pricing, practical, helpful events, or campaigns. This type of car dealership marketing can also be targeted to the affluent parents of Gen Z teenagers.

Car Dealership Marketing Example: 

Car dealership marketing in this instance isn’t a dealership’s biggest challenge. Run a promotion for young/first-time car-owners that appeals to their sense of practicality and value – a free toolbox and basic car maintenance class with their new car.


Safety (and Technology) is Essential

What The Data Tell Us:

Sure, price is the most important, but Gen Z ranks safety over brand, style, and even the infotainment technology that one would expect them to be obsessed with. Why? Well, it is actually rooted in their device-filled upbringing.

Our sophomore year driving classes were filled with warnings about drinking and driving – Gen Z is lectured about not texting and driving. Classes, billboards, and a multitude of real-life experiences have Gen Z concerned about the dangers of distracted driving.

Generation Z understands that it is technology that is fueling the distracted-driving issues, but they also think that technology is the solution. Therefore, they are more comfortable with self-driving technology than other generations. A full 72% are happy to let a car perform basic tasks, while 67% are fine with two completely “autonomous” functions being performed by the car at the same time. Gen Z still doesn’t want to commit fully to self-driving cars, however, with a relatively low 54% being comfortable with a completely self-driving car. Car dealership marketing that focuses on driving technology as a solution for the problems of communication technology will appeal to Gen Z shoppers.

Car Dealership Marketing Strategy:

Car dealership marketing has always been able to use safety as a campaign-theme, but most safety campaigns are targeted towards parents. Suburu’s exceptional safety ads are a great example. They’re perfect for the age of lots of Gen Z – teenagers and young adults who are beginning to get their first cars. However, dealers can leverage car dealership marketing to reach Gen Z by highlighting the technological advances that make the car safer: proximity detection, backup cameras, auto-parallel parking. Their parents might still be hung up on airbags, but Gen Z is interested in the ways that technology can keep them not only unharmed, but unscratched as well, and your car dealership marketing should reflect this.

Car Dealership Marketing Example:

Car dealership marketing to Gen Z will require specific content to be created. Create a video that showcases the safety-tech features of your most Gen Z-friendly car and promote it via social media to both Gen Z and their parents. It should go without saying that the video production should be high quality. Generation Z isn’t going to respect content that doesn’t live up to their high standards when it comes to video.


Be Where They Are

What The Data Tell Us:

If we thought Millennials got a bad rap for their device use, Gen Z puts them to shame. Millennials use around three screens, but Gen Z use five. Laptop, smartphone, tablet, PC, and TV. That massive device use isn’t a bad thing for car dealership marketing. Gen Z are digital addicts, and they are well aware of it. A full 40% of Gen Z are self-identified digital device addicts, and 92% of Gen Z has a digital footprint. This fact that this is a digital generation is one that presents unique benefits and problems for car dealership marketing.

Gen Z rates mobile devices and PCs/laptops as equally important when it comes to car shopping, something that sets them apart from older generations – who favor doing their research on a PC. Gen Z will do research from anywhere – making them easier to reach, but harder to keep interested.

Car Dealership Marketing Strategy:

This car dealership marketing strategy depends on both advertising on the right device and in the right application. First, car dealership marketing personnel have to target a user across their devices. If they pull up a video on their phone and an ad starts to play, their eyes will go to a different screen – their laptop or CTV for example – and there needs to be the potential for an advertisement there too. Second, dealers have to be in the right applications on these devices. Social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more are exactly the right places to advertise to and engage with Gen Z.

Car Dealership Marketing Example:

Start posting artistic and high-quality photos of high-end vehicles on Instagram an engaging with young car-lovers. Once you’ve built enough of an audience, you can even start running car dealership marketing promotions that will reward the Gen Z participants with things like a free ride to prom in one of your sexiest cars.


They Hate You Advertising To Them

What The Data Tell Us:

Let’s not beat about the bush. Here are the facts: Gen Z are more positive towards ads in traditional media versus digital advertising. They have a particularly intense aversion to search ads, display ads, and mobile video. That information is the source of waves of anxiety among dealers and the advertising industry, but it shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Gen Z is fine with traditional media like newspaper ads and radio because nobody is trying to reach them through those channels. In newspaper ads, for example, they’re unlikely to see the ads poorly disguised as impassioned appeals to youth and revolution that companies are intent on drowning them in. Companies continually put out ads like this and promote them heavily on Gen Z’s favorite apps and websites.

Gen Z are on their devices constantly. This is an essential element in car dealership marketing to Gen Z. They will see ads many many more times a day than the 70 year old man who just reads the newspaper at breakfast every morning. Not only does Gen Z get ads on their favorite platforms, their digital lifestyle means they are bombarded constantly, and much of the time, they can see right through to the phoniness of the message. The result of this massive distaste for ads: while 71% of Millennials said they followed an advertisement online before making a purchase, only 59% of Gen Z said the same.

Think of Pepsi’s disastrous Kendall Jenner music video. One of the lyrics is, we kid you not, “We are the movement, this generation/You better know who we are, who we are.” It is such an overt and clumsy attempt to appeal to youth that it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so insulting. Dealers can’t afford to make that bad of a mistake with their car dealership marketing.
Both Generation X and Millennials also tend to click on more ads; 71% of Millennials in a recent poll said they followed an advertisement online before making a purchase, however only 59% of Gen Z’ers said the same.” This presents an interesting issue for car dealership marketing.

Car Dealership Marketing Strategy:

First, advertise to Gen Z on the platforms they use. You just can’t avoid it with modern car dealership marketing. But you can keep frequency low, and try to avoid frustrating users by using TrueView video ads and other opt-in advertising instead of the more time-consuming and frustration-inducing formats.  Second, don’t try to pander to Gen Z with your car dealership marketing. They can see it, and they hate it. Beyond the “do not”s, our car dealership marketing strategy isn’t a particularly complex one. Find creative and subtle ways to advertise to Gen Z – while still reaching them and driving them to your dealership website.

Car Dealership Marketing Example:

Use Uber and Lyft drivers. Yes, we know that isn’t really who you’re targeting with this car dealership marketing strategy, bear with us. Many young people use ride-sharing services, even if they don’t think they’re 100% an alternative to ownership yet. You can offer a discount for Uber of Lyft drivers when they buy your cars, give these drivers an exceptional experience (making sure they know about all the cool new tech features of the car), and then let word of mouth – and the natural desire to brag about a new car (and all of its cool tech features) to anyone who will listen – do its work. We recommend having a license plate border with your dealership name on the car for good measure, sure, it’s one of the oldest car dealership marketing tactics, but it works.


Customer Experience is a Must

What The Data Tell Us:

Despite growing up in a fully digital age, Gen Z values face-to-face interactions even more than other generations. They might get a lot of flack for being glued to their phones – but Gen Z knows that in-person experience is important. 67% still feel that they would rather do their car shopping in a store. However, that doesn’t mean they’re happy to roll up to a dealership and have the same experience a Baby Boomer or Gen X’er would have been fine with.

Gen Z puts a lot of importance on their personal experience at a business. They want to feel they’ve made their own decision, they want to know they’re getting a fair deal, and they want it done quickly.

“When it doesn’t get there that fast they think something’s wrong,” says Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.”

Car Dealership Marketing Strategy:

Revitalize your dealership customer experience. It needs to be faster, less stressful, and more trustworthy. That’s really what this car dealership marketing strategy boils down to.

Specifically, this means crafting a no-pressure, no-haggle sales experience for Gen Z. High-pressure and intimidatory tactics from salespeople will set off alarm bells that were built in during a childhood in the recession and turn shoppers off.

In that same car dealership marketing vein, pricing models need to be transparent – particularly when it comes to having the same pricing online and in person. A Gen Z shopper who sees a good a price online will assume it is the price they will pay at the lot. If that price changes, the same alarms will be set off, and they will immediately take off in favor of a business they do trust.  No amount of good car dealership marketing will save you if the shopper doesn’t trust the business.

The final element of this car dealership marketing strategy is expediting the sales process. A mass of paperwork that takes hours to wade through is a huge turn off for Gen Z, who are used to being able to do everything online – from college applications to Roth-IRA set-ups. If they can do those things in a quick online format, telling them they have to do car paperwork the old fashioned way isn’t appealing

In order to be effective in their car dealership marketing, dealerships need to become experience centers – not paperwork appointments or boxing rings.

Car Dealership Marketing Example:

Despite that it isn’t traditional car dealership marketing, you should still conduct a dealership CX audit. Find out where in your dealership people are being slowed down, frustrated, confused, or concerned and fix it. Then, once you have, you can focus your car dealership marketing on promoting customer experience with creative content like a video that compares traditional car buying with Jerry Example’s Ford and it’s new Green Light system that moves shoppers from test drive to proud owner in less than an hour.



Car dealership marketing has never been simple, and marketing to multiple generations, including Gen Z is only going to make it more complex. But, with the insights you’ve gained in this blog post, your dealership can thrive. If you take nothing else from this car dealership marketing blog post, learn from Pepsi’s mistakes. As facepalming-ly obvious as the song lyrics are, they’re not wrong. Gen Z is powerful. They are the movement, this generation. You better know who they are.