ORLANDO, FL – Dealer Todd Snell is surprised at the growing number of consumers who rely on mobile devices to shop for cars.

Customers at Snell Motors in Mankato, MN, use smartphones and computer tablets to check inventory, send emails to the store and contact personnel.

“The number of customers using mobile has doubled every three to six months,” Snell says at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here. “I never would have suspected mobile would be used as the first point of contact.”

The mobile phenomenon also amazes Montgomery, AL, dealer Forrest McConnell III. He says 31% of customers use mobile devices to look at online inventory. “I’m surprised at that, because the screen is small.”

If car shoppers seem wired in today, wait until the next generation, says 2013 NADA Chairman David Wescott. “My 3-year-old grandson is pretty good with the iPad, so you can see how it will be like.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com