American car companies are on the rebound, but they're finding it harder to attract young buyers. Twenty-somethings aren't likely to wait for the latest car magazine and they're less likely to see the latest TV commercial. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports on how the auto giants are trying to capture a fractured youth market.

SONARI GLINTON: OK, folks, it's time to get into the Wayback machine. We'll set the dial to 1959.

(Soundbite of music)

GLINTON: Back here in 1959, if you want to sell a car, you only need a car - in this case a Chevy Impala - a star - in this case Dinah Shore - and a catchy tune.

(Soundbite of ad)

Ms. DINAH SHORE: (Singing) Chevrolet is the one, the one, that froze the fun, the fun, the fun is in the going, out rain or shine or snowing...

GLINTON: I mean, who didn't love Dinah Shore? So, you'd probably head into the showroom. Once you went with Dinah and Chevy, you stuck with them. These days...

Mr. JOHN EMMERT (Global Marketing Manager, Ford): The Dinah Shore approach by itself doesn't work anymore.

GLINTON: John Emmert is the Global Marketing Manager for Ford. He says it's getting tough for car commercials to reach customers, especially young ones, who are more fickle and...

Mr. EMMERT: The media is getting very fragmented. So, in order to reach the people you're trying to reach you need to have a broad approach or, in terms of the media you consider, and a targeted approach based on, you know, finding where these people are.

GLINTON: Meaning you have to hit all the mediums to find the customers and you got to do it quick. The Ford Focus has one new ad campaign, for the whole world.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Man: It might be hard to believe that the new Focus can actually park itself...'til you've actually seen park itself. The all new Focus with class-exclusive active park assist.

GLINTON: Short commercials like that plus an Internet TV show, a social media campaign, a charity reality show, Facebook and more - all for one car.

Jeremy Anwyl is CEO of He says the big car companies have the kind of money they haven't had in years and they're spending a lot of it going after young people. They're not always successful.

Mr. JEREMY ANWYL (CEO, Right now, the car companies are very focused on, you know, getting people to like their Facebook page, which to me is kind of irrelevant.

GLINTON: Anwyl says the key is to find a natural way to surprise people with a car, then get them to talk about it.

Mr. ANWYL: It seems pretty simple but, you know, in the car industry we just haven't quite figured out how to get that level of some sort of surprise that triggers these conversations.

GLINTON: Anwyl says as the car industry gets more competitive and media more fractured, it'll be harder for any car to be heard. Plus, no can get Dinah Shore.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Detroit.

(Soundbite of ad)

CHORUS: (Singing) The fun, the fun, the fun is in the knowing. The fun is in the going. In the slimline driven by Chevrolet.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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