Automakers turn to Facebook to engage younger customers

Car brands just can't seem to keep off Facebook nowadays, with both Toyota and Mazda announcing social media initiatives in the last week.

To celebrate a decade in the US market for the hybrid Prius, Toyota is launching a Facebook competition to find the most passionate Prius fan.

It's calling for fuel-efficient drivers, eco warriers, gadget gurus and community volunteers to submit their video or photo albums to demonstrate their Prius passion for a chance to host the official 10 Years of Toyota Prius Anniversary Celebration in their hometown on October 10, 2010.

Last week, fellow Japanese automaker Mazda launched "DriverVille," a Facebook game designed to accompany the launch of its MAZDA2 hatchback in the US and Canada.

The game, like other "ville-style" games such as FarmVille or PetVille, allows users to create their own avatar and interact with each other in a virtual world.

Players can compete against each other to win "Driver Bucks" to buy virtual items, as well as completing challenges such as a race at Mazda Raceway and acquiring snow tires, a snowboard and an accessory roof rack.

The game was built by interactive agency Doner, which said "Since young drivers already live on Facebook, the logical place to start was to develop a virtual world called DriverVille."

That sentiment is an echo of Kia, which in June announced a tie-up with hit Facebook app PetVille in a bid to target "generation Y."

The deal meant that users could earn PetVille cash, typically only available through gameplay or purchase, in return for creating their own music video in the application.