NEW ORLEANS – Automakers want new-vehicle showrooms that are better places to work, transparent in their practices and more customer-friendly overall, and data compiled by the National Automobile Dealers Assn. suggests dealers would benefit from forging such a transformation.

Car makers, from top-end luxury brands to mass-market marques, say it’s time for a cultural overhaul in the way new cars are sold and serviced, citing the shift toward technology-laden vehicles and Internet-savvy shoppers who abhor high-pressure sales tactics and come through the door armed with detailed product and pricing information.

They also want sales and service employees to be better-engaged in their jobs, because understanding and supporting the dealer’s mission to serve customers translates into higher sales, better profit margins and increased brand loyalty among consumers, say industry insiders at last weekend’s 2014 NADA Convention and Exhibition here.

More Gen Y buyers are entering the market, says Thomas King, senior director-consulting for J.D. Power, noting this group is “the most sensitive to new technology and digital (marketing).” The demographic is expected to account for 3.3 million new-vehicle sales this year, up from 3.0 million in 2013 and 1.9 million in 2007, King says.

Among initiatives meant to appeal to this group are BMW North America’s “Future Retail” program that is placing Apple-like product specialists, called Geniuses, in showrooms to guide customers through a growing array of models and high-tech options, and a Ford project that puts dealers in touch with “coaches” who help them reshape work practices and build a more collaborative work environment from the back office to the service bay.

“Customers are better informed than ever, and they expect a similar level of knowledge from the sales staff,” says BMW North America CEO Ludwig Willisch. “They want a stylish and inviting retail environment. The presentation must be a quick and informative experience, and no pressure. Younger customers are attracted to our products, and they no longer accept business as usual.”

General Motors quality chief Alicia Boler-Davis agrees it’s time for a change, pointing to the automaker’s new customer-engagement center in Warren, MI, staffed by 300 advisors and 30 managers charged with fielding product complaints and questions from customers and potential new-car buyers.

“If we don’t get the culture right, we’re not going to succeed,” she says.