Buyers' reasons for selecting a car vary so much by country, age and gender that car makers must carefully tailor their messages to avoid wasting money, Automotive News Europe said.

Europeans agree on the top three considerations — price, reliability and comfort. But beyond that, other reasons differ widely by nationality and stage in life, says a major survey of European media usage and brand attitudes.

Germans worry least about safety, but the French value security. The British care most among major European markets about style, but it's a tiny factor for Germans.

Many car ads focus on speed as an underlying message. But speed ranks among the lowest considerations of actual buyers at No. 14. These are some of the findings made by Nick Hiddleston, international research director at media buying and planning specialist Initiative Media.

Hiddleston analysed the TGI Europa 2003 survey of the media consumption, product usage and brand attitudes of 55,000 consumers across France, Germany, Spain and the UK.

Carmakers spend around €5 billion a year on advertising in these four markets. They should pay close attention to the type of advertising message they convey to their potential customers, Hiddleston said. It is important to match the right messages to the right audience, he added.

While national differences are important, it's more insightful to consider changes by age group.

Although speed ranks low overall in importance across all markets, there is a strong interest in speed up until the age of 34 — especially among young men who give it double the emphasis of young women. Younger buyers are also more interested in style.

So how important is advertising in car selection in Europe? Apparently very little. The over-55s listen far more to their local dealers.

But those aged 17 to 44 acknowledge some influence. And there is a gender split on the subject. Men are twice as likely to be influenced by ads than women. Women are more influenced by safety and security than men, Automotive News Europe said.