By on January 18, 2012

Last time on Generation Why, we discussed Chevrolet’s youth-oriented concepts, and how the big problem related to marketing to young people was their poor economic prospects. But what about those that can afford a car? Are “connectivity features” like Toyota’s Entune, really the way forward? What about the good old-fashioned notion of just building a car that people will want?

Having made the mistake of following tech blogs for a few years, it’s safe to assert that tech journalists are just as myopic as auto journalists are prone to be, seeing the world through the lens of a hardcore enthusiast with zero empathy for the average user. And it only gets worse when one reaches the nexus of automobiles and electronics.

Tech enthusiasts/bloggers would have the world believe that everyone is constantly plugged in to every up and coming social network all the time. This is patently false. Twitter has been promoted endlessly for the last few years, but I would estimate that at most 25 percent of my friends have an account, and maybe 5 percent tweet regularly. Sure, if you went to SXSW or CES, everyone would be in their own little social media world, tweeting and “muploading” away, but that’s because of a selection bias, whereby these “early adopters” are jumping on the bandwagon and promoting these social networks in the endless blogosphere echo chamber.

Speaking on the GM concept cars designed for Gen Y, Peter DeLorenzo commented that “…their communication devices are their lives and that over-sharing defines their very existence…” Mr. DeLorenzo is significantly older than I am and perhaps this is how he views us, but I can assert that his idea of Gen Y is false – and if Chevrolet’s presentation was suggesting that, then they are wrong too.

Most people, my demographic included, are huge consumers of social media – but only as a means to an end. We do not define ourselves based on brand allegiance to a particular phone (unless you are a social leper an insufferable Mac geek), or ignore what’s going on around us by “live-tweeting” an event (a disturbing phenomenon that I’ve seen happen all too often), staring at our phones while ignoring the real action taking place.  “Over-sharing”, updating too much on social networking or being too into the use of social media tools in general is distinctly uncool. And the “social media influencers” and power users are very often nerdy, socially awkward borderline Aspergers types who use the internet as a replacement for real human interaction. Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, Pandora, OpenTable, Yelp – all the apps and networks are merely ways to bring about the real end goal; socializing in person. The tech blogger/early adopter crowd suffers from selection bias – they see all their friends and colleagues using every new social network and interacting via computer and naturally assume that everyone is hoping on board, just as we car geeks assume that everyone wants the mythical manual TDI wagon. Empirical evidence tells us otherwise, though if GM consulted with the aforementioned tech bloggers and gadget enthusiasts when they were doing market research, then they were led astray by out-of-touch consultants with poor judgement.

Yes, automobile is no longer a vehicle (no pun intended) for socializing as much as it once was, but largely because of the increased costs, not because cars are considered radioactive, as some empty-headed pundits would have you believe. Cruising around is still a fun past time, but now an act of flagrant profligacy thanks to $4/gallon gasoline prices. In my parents day, taking the car to a diner, and then maybe trying to neck in the backseat was the thing to do.  Hanging out at the burger joint used to be the sole social venue, but today there are so many options, from live music to nightclubs to house parties to outdoor activities that sitting around chatting while drinking a shake and leaning on the hood of your car is just a quaint artifact of the Mad Men era. Even if you live in the suburbs or the country, where your options are limited, the mega mall is a one-stop location for social interaction, or you can always stay home and chat online – not to mention, being alone with a member of the opposite sex in your parents house isn’t a social taboo anymore, even if it remains awkward.

A hard and fast rule with Gen Y is that the more a brand attempts to market themselves to this group, the more that Gen Y is repulsed by it. Major “luxury” houses do not appeal to teens and 20-somethings, yet they are the most coveted by this group. For girls, a Coach bag is laughably passe now that they’ve attempted to appeal to the younger crowd with bright patterns and colors – they’ve all moved on to Louis Vuitton or other outrageously expensive brands now that a once affordable but prestigious brand has lost its cachet by trying to market directly. One brand that’s done a great job of marketing indirectly (and becoming cool in the process) is Hyundai. As early as 2007, most of my friends mocked my parents Hyundai Santa Fe as being a “cheap Korean car”. Nowadays, the Genesis Coupe is easily the most coveted affordable car among young men in my peer group, and I know a few people who have bought various Hyundai products (the Veloster, Sonata and Elantra respectively) on the strength of their designs and price points. Hyundai’s ad campaigns are droll and subtle, even with a vehicle like the Veloster that’s ostensibly aimed at young buyers. Hyundai abstains from shots of cool hipsters sipping artistanal coffees or going snow boarding, just the voice of Jeff Bridges making sly quips about the car. To casual observers, the Elantra really does look and feel more upscale than a Cruze (or a Corolla/Civic for that matter). The company seems to be building cars that people from all walks of life would be proud to own and drive, and that image seems to be resonating with a demographic that likes Louis Vuitton purses and Polo shirts, but can’t afford the BMW 328i that goes along with it.

The structural problems I outlined last week, like massive youth unemployment and the rising cost of car ownership, still exist and will continue to be a handicap for automakers. But that shouldn’t bar the OEMs from continuing their pursuit of making good cars. If anything, that should lead to an even greater impetus to simply making good cars.  After all, a car is still the most convenient way to bring grocery bags home or get your mountain bike to the trails in the State Park. Most places don’t have adequate infrastructure to make public transit or cycling an option for those that do wish to use them. And even though young people are more environmentally aware, few are principled enough to give up their car to help save the planet.  The car isn’t dead for us yet. It’s just what’s out there right now, and what’s on the horizon, that isn’t really doing it. All the window dressing in the world, whether it’s touch screens, app suites or “experiential marketing campaigns” won’t change a thing. If the car is lame, your target demographic will figure it out. Better to build something good and let it stand on its own than try to convince the most cynical and jaded generation that your product is “totally rad, dude!”

 

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107 Comments on “Generation Why: The “Killer App” Is Good Cars, Not Facebook...”


  • avatar

    Derek, review that Scion FT-R or whatever is it called. It’s something even younger people can afford – at least in theory.

    • 0 avatar

      I would love to. I have no idea when a press launch is happening or when cars will come to the fleet, but I am eager to do so. Then again, pricing hasn’t even been announced yet. I want to see whether the hype is just that, or if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be. You can never really be sure…

    • 0 avatar
      stryker1

      +1, I’m eager to see how that pans out, though I don’t think 20k+ is considered affordable by most young people. I’m assuming at least that price cause I can’t see how it would be priced under the Tc.

      • 0 avatar
        A Caving Ape

        It isn’t, but there’s certainly a demographic that can afford them. I’m a recent college grad and I definitely have a few friends who have bought new. Most recently a friend who cares little for cars bought a new 4-pot Rav 4 (why? reliability, ground clearance, fuel economy, practicality). I’m not afraid of repairs so I beat a different path, buying used with cash, but I’ve done the math and if the FR-S turns out to be really good, I’ll strongly consider making the payments.

        edit: though, ahem, all of these recent grads I’m speaking of are freshly minted engineers.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’m 33 and a family man with a skilled white-collar job, and a $20k car isn’t affordable to me. Granted, I had a bit more money BC (before children), but not enough that I’ve ever purchased a new car at any price.

        Buying a 10 year old Escape was a stretch. It wasn’t really the car I wanted, but I needed to replace my pickup truck with a family car — or else I wouldn’t have bought anything. Still, if I can’t afford a $20k car, who can?

        Oh, right, the market for new cars is about half what it was pre-2009.

        Still dreaming about buying a shiny new his-and-hers Chevy Volts for our daily driving needs, though…

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        I agree… I wonder who buys these expensive cars. I’m a divorced 30 y.o., and make $65K/year (about $50K after child support, and I have no debt other than my car loan… and there’s no way I’d spend more than $25K ABSOLUTE TOPS for a car. And even that would seem a stretch.

        Either there are a lot of folks out there with a far greater appetite for debt, or a lot of $100,000K+/year earners that feel like blowing it on BMWs.

        (Or they’re all leased)

        Oh yeah… Scion tC here. Great value for the money… The amenities and space of an Accord Coupe EX at thousands less, without resorting to a Detroit off-brand or a used car.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Afflo,

        Well, there ARE a lot of folks out there who make $100K. And even more couples who make $75K each. Not a lot relative to 300M people in the country, but enough to sell a fair number of $40-$60K cars a year.

        The really, really, really lucky ones make that much and live in areas with relatively low costs of living. I’m lucky enough to be such. Figuring in the value of the rent and utilities that my roommate pays, I make over $100K a year. I live in Maine, in a town that is not terribly fashionable, in a kinda crappy old house that I bought BEFORE the bubble started for $130K – which WAS a stretch at the time, I had three roomates originally, in a 1200sq/ft house with one bathroom. I’m single, no kids, and 42yo. A $43K car was not a stretch, especially at 1.9%, and I will have it paid off in about 3 years. And I thank my lucky stars that my career is doing well, and it is something I love doing, with a company with a long, stable, track record. I know lots of folks in similar situations. Some buy cars, some go on $10K dive vacations, some stick it in the bank. Many paid too much for too much house. You can’t take it with you, might as well have some fun.

        I didn’t buy my car for any reason other than I love to drive, and do a lot of driving, and I wanted the best tool for the job that fits my lifestyle. I could not care less about what impression it makes on anyone else – OK, I’m human, I like it when someone tells me they like my car. Lots of other people buy them for the badge, but at the end of the day the substance is absolutely still there.

        But I will say I never would have stretched the budget to buy my car. I probably COULD have stretched to leasing one years ago, but I did not even contemplate it.

        So that is the other side of the story.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Not aware of any outlet that has gotten their hands on a production version away from Toyota overlords to write an unvarnished review.

      Has to be one of the most dragged out product launches in automotive history.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @APaGttH :

        I don’t think the 86/BR-Z launch has been dragged out at all. we’ve known of the car’s _existence_ for a long time and it has been relatively visible during it’s development, but has not been “launching” for any longer-than normal period of time. perhaps this seems a too-fine semantic point, but it’s not.

        the normal cadence for any new-new car is “concept” reveal + 12 months to production reveal + 3-6 months to actual production, with press drives as availability of vehicles allows, with publication targeted to prime the pump for on-sale demand.

        the main exception to this I can think of is Honda (usually doesn’t have any “concept” vehicles to reveal, new cars are generally so mildly evolutionary that they don’t get “scooped” prior to reveals). to a degree, BMW/Porsche/Audi/M-B also follow this, but again, designs are usually not clean-sheet and they don’t want to splash the new hotness too soon, lest prospective buyers shun the outgoing model.

        the 86/BR-Z is far less over-exposed than the Camaro was for instance.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Why is GM still sitting on the Nomad Concept? Are they waiting for Chrysler to run with it, so they can copy it ten years later, HHR-style? Put out a nostalgic practical little hatch already!

    • 0 avatar

      The Nomad might be a nice Veloster competitor if executed properly. Wasn’t it on the same platform as the Sky and Solstice?

      • 0 avatar
        Tosh

        You missed my point Derek: A Nomad type car (defined here for the sake of this argument as: “timelessly-styled medium hatch”) could be built on any platform and could stand on its own as a useful daily car regardless of whatever whimsy the competition did. (In fact, it’s watching and reacting to the competition, rather than making improvements on their own product, that always puts GM behind the times.)

  • avatar
    Oren Weizman

    I’ve seen them all, the overcomplicated system on Fords, the 33 command only system on Toyotas. a car as a social tool, let’s face it, cars are social tools. where do you draw the line tho ?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I don’t understand your argument. I thought cars were transportation. Can you make your case, rather than just stating your conclusion?

      I’m slightly older than Generation Why, but not by much (I’m somewhere between “Generation X” and “Generation Y”, and I would prefer to just have it all lumped together as “the Internet Generation”).

      I’ve realized that I keep my cars outlast electronics, media formats, and all kinds of other things. Assuming that someone wants a car to be a rolling Facebook kiosk is just silly.

      Despite bracket creep, and the slow-but-steady improvement in automotive technologies, the transportation utility of cars isn’t going to go obsolete any time soon. A pickup truck from 1989 will haul plywood, just like a pickup truck from 2012. A passenger car from 1991 will haul passengers just like a car from 2012.

      So, more sensible approach would be for the car company to acknowledge that car infotainment is a moving target that they can never catch, and that they should just make it easy for me to plug in the consumer electronics of my choice. This means a standard double-din-like opening in the dashboard, standard wiring, and standard interfaces to steering wheel buttons and HVAC controls.

      Then, I can plug in whatever device I choose from Ford, Apple, Google, Honda, Toyota, or even Microsoft, if I happen to like what they make into my existing car in the parking lot outside of Best Buy, with about the same amount of effort that is required to remove an iPad from the box.

  • avatar
    George B

    Back when I was in my 20s the cost of car insurance was a huge deciding factor in what car to buy. Now gasoline prices are also significant. What are car manufacturers doing to attack the high cost of ownership problem? Who wants a car that they can’t afford to drive?

    I always thought car manufacturers could get customers to come back to dealerships more frequently if they offered competitively priced accessories to customize a car. That way the customer could buy the relatively low priced car they can afford at that point in life, but upgrade it over time as finances allow.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    Derek- this is fantastic stuff. I’m roughly exactly your age, and this is all the stuff I’ve been thinking these past few years as I’ve developed my car enthusiasm. Only I haven’t been able to put it into words, because it’s an issue that demands a long form. So thanks- this is a great series and a great new direction for TTAC.

  • avatar
    tbhride

    “…now that a once affordable but prestigious brand has lost its cache…”

    CACHET CACHET CACHET!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      There are several typos but the point is loud and clear. The harder you try to sell someone a product the more they shy away from it. Upper middle aged executives think young people are dumb so they say “Let’s film this ad with roller blades and horse shoes and whatever the devil it is these kids do these days.”

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Proofreading in general seems to have gone out of style. Even worse is the standard of commentary, where writing in comprehensible, properly formatted English appears to be considered excessively conformist. There’s a couple of contributors especially who seem to take pride in their willingness to rattle off unformatted stream of conciousness ramblings.

      Sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to write coherently, I’m not going to waste my time deciphering your scribblings.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        People need to relax, this is not Time. This is a casual format and everyone is guilty of the occasional typo that slips through. If you catch someone’s mistake it does not make you smarter than them, it means you noticed a mistake. I would much rather these writers spend more time on reviewing cars and less time on obsessive proof reading.

      • 0 avatar
        tbhride

        We’re all just working together for a better tomorrow :P

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Good article

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    Well said, Derek. The fixation on in-car electronics/entertainment as a way to make sales is baffling to me. Does iheartradio or OpenTable really sell cars? Or does a 25YO shopper look for many of the same things that a 50YO shopper wants? Good value, reliability, pleasant to drive, comfortable, fuel efficient, good looking cars. Maybe there are some subtle differences between what young and old people find good looking, but I would argue even these differences are small. The first generation xB was designed for young tastes, and then older people discovered how practical it was and bought them like crazy. Hyundai figured out how to make decent-quality high-value cars, and now everyone beats a path to their door despite styling that is sometimes polarizing. Benz/BMW/Audi makes cars that old people aspire to own, and — go figure! — young people wish they could be seen in those cars too.

    Selling cars isn’t rocket science. I’ll live without facebook on my morning commute if you promise me the car will start every day.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I’m about Derek’s age, 23, and I couldn’t give 2 hairs off a rat’s a$$ for all the gimmicky electronic shiite. In my car I have a radio, with Sirius (which is kind of nice), and A/C. That’s all I need. My questions for cars are: “does it go when I need it to and stop when I want it to?” All else is secondary. Then again I’ve never been a techy and have a modicum of social skill, so I’m not glued to my computer (the only reason I’m here now is that I’m on my lunch break at work).

      If I needed to figure out a place to go I would do so at home and write directions short hand so I could navigate on the fly, but I do not need navigation or internet radio or whatever else people are coming up with.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The killer electronic apps are Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. The other stuff is just fluff. I can’t understand why someone would want to Bluetooth stream music and drain their phone battery when a perfectly good USB port is right there on the dash. Same with Pandora. I will say that if the manufacturers can leverage the capabilities of the smartphone for navigation etc, they could cut costs dramatically by eliminating the expensive and quickly outdated in dash nav systems.

    As for the cars, the automakers need to realize that they can’t market their way to cool. If the car sucks, the marketing will only go so far.

    And Hyundai has marketed directly to Gen-Y with the Veloster. The kid surrounded by police in the voice text messaging spot, and the hipster night club ad with the girls getting out of the back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      And that USB port supplies power to any device (smartphone, iPod) while the music is playing.

      The other real problem is that to stream Pandora you must pay for a data plan – upwards of $50 a month. That $50 a month subtracts from the (new) car that can be purchased. For the young people there are a lot of “$50 a month expenses” – cable or satellite TV, cellphone voice, wireless broadband – these can easily total $150 a month which makes a new car less attainable.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My smartphone does everything a car infotainment system could possibly do, but far better and for a lot less.

      Also, the cellular business model gives me an incentive to have only one mobile data device. Paying $50/mo to get realtime data into my car dashboard is dumb, if I’m already paying for it in my phone. (My wife and I often use smartphone navigation apps that integrate real-time traffic information, and it’s very hand with roadtrips. And one of us can look at the map and plan how to get around the traffic while the other one drives.)

      So, yeah, don’t try to replace my Android phone. Charge it and let me play the sound on the speakers. AM/FM radio is mostly dead, so I don’t even really want a radio in my car anymore. I wouldn’t mind an Android or IOS device in the dashboard, though, that I could customize and/or replace when it starts getting dated.

      P.S. The NAV system in my wife’s 2004 Prius looked old in 2007, and looks positively ancient now. Between that and owning a smartphone, I specifically avoided cars with NAV systems when buying my used Escape — too hard to replace with something good.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I seriously don’t get why car companies try to market to the under 30 crowd, as they don’t buy new cars in any quantity. I leased my first new car at 31, but that was really a company car and once the company was no longer paying, it got sold off. My second and third new cars were at 40 and 42 respectively. As has been whinged about before, kids these days (and in my day too) are lucky to even have a job.

    I’m a 42yo computer engineer, and about as ‘techie’ as they come. I certainly want Bluetooth and USB in my car, but that is about it for internal high-tech. Internet access from the car? Dear God. Touch screens should be banned in cars as a driving distraction. And I certainly have no need of talking to the car for anything other than ‘Dial Mom Home’.

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      “I seriously don’t get why car companies try to market to the under 30 crowd, as they don’t buy new cars in any quantity”

      this.

      chasing the mythical under-25 customer of a new car seems foolish unless you really have something inexpensive to offer (Sonic/Elantra/Fiesta/Fit) which you can get for a reasonable payment. and the more reliable and long-lasting the manufacturer makes their new vehicles, the longer they are on the road, the more attractive they are to a young/under-funded buyer.

      howver, if you can integrate an inexpensive, functional, (relatively) easy to connectivity of some sort into the car, it could be a selling point to the average customer.

      readers of enthusiast-targeted blogs or other outlets are not the target market for cheap, cheeful, connected new cars.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “I seriously don’t get why car companies try to market to the under 30 crowd, as they don’t buy new cars in any quantity”

        this.

        I seriously don’t get why people reply to comments with “this.” “This” what? It’s like walking around, pointing, and saying “there.”

        I blame social media. :p

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      The under 30 crowd is the future. You can’t ignore them completely and then expect them to flock to your products when they reach the magic age of new car ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I seriously don’t get why car companies try to market to the under 30 crowd

      It’s referred to as LTV (the Lifetime Value of a Customer.)

      - Young people have more car purchases in their future than do older people.

      - It is cheaper and easier to retain customers than it is to get new ones.

      Therefore, the goal is to get them relatively early, and then give them a product ladder to climb so that it is more likely that they will stay with the brand for their next purchases. The more next purchases that you have, the more desirable that you are as a customer.

      Ultimately, brand loyalty should increase margins and reduce marketing costs. If consumers will ignore at least some of your competition while paying a premium for your name, then you will be one happy automaker.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @Pch101 :

        unless I’m mistaken, data shows that the younger generation is also far _less_ brand loyal when it comes to purchase decisions. those in the tribe may be wedded to their apple devices, but since apple isn’t selling cars, I don’t know that there’s as much value in hooking them early and getting them to come back again & again & again.

        that’s not to say that we’ve become a nation of complete brand nomads either, but as consumers become more educated (witness the broad use of social media/review sites/etc prior to starting shopping for any big ticket item) they are more likely to gravitate to good products, regardless of their origin. the Koreans have proven this with their sales success, having built on their (very) humble origins and laughable initial product.

        if one is agnostic about brand image (and for the posters here who note they are not driven by hp or speed or brand snobbery, this is their exact point) and looks for function and value, a new product executed well, from a source which has credibility (or offers a massive warranty/service plan to allay fears if they don’t) should have every chance of success in the marketplace.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @ Derek :
        “Gen Y customers are still huge brand snobs. Do not be fooled.”

        snobs yes, but not loyal. I think there’s a difference, subtle but important. I also think that beyond a few brands (Buick, Lincoln, maybe Cadillac in some areas), there aren’t any which would get people shunned, rather they’d be more of a “meh” choice.

        the demographics tell us that young people will have many more jobs and careers than their parents or even those of us in Jack’s age bracket. (who might be their parents in fact). That sort of mobility (and uncertainty) is going to force broader decision making than pure brand snobbery. additionally, isn’t someone who is brand-obsessed more likely to go for a used luxury brand (CPO’ed BMW, Merc, Audi, whatever the kids think is cool) than spend similar money on a new, less sexy car ?

        put in other terms :
        a) rich kids buy what’s cool, however that’s defined
        b) poor kids buy what’s practical (reliable used)
        c) people who work their way into reasonable income by working hard/being smart, buy sensible new cars (these are who you want to sell to)
        d) people who aspire to be a) buy used luxury brands, then gradute to being a) and buy new

        if you can combine something which a) would buy but make it affordable (and logical) for c) you really have something. not sure anyone does that currently.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        data shows that the younger generation is also far _less_ brand loyal when it comes to purchase decisions

        There is less brand loyalty in some respects. But that does not mean that there is zero brand loyalty, or that companies shouldn’t aspire to have strong brands. If brands had zero value, then companies wouldn’t endeavor to maintain and improve them.

        if one is agnostic about brand image

        You miss the point of branding. It often has nothing to do with “snobbery”, it’s also about managing expectations and giving the consumer an experience that is line with what he anticipates.

        When consumers see “Toyota” and “Corolla”, they expect to get a certain combination of benefits. If they perceive that those benefits are greater than they what they would get from something that is called a “Ford Pinto”, then they will buy more of it (volume) and/or pay more for it (margin).

        This dependable stream of business helps Toyota to make money because it knows that it can generate a certain predictable base of sales, which supports profits and future investment into new products. It has really nothing to do with arrogance at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      “I’m a 42yo computer engineer, and about as ‘techie’ as they come. I certainly want Bluetooth and USB in my car”

      Great! What version would you like? Bertel tells us that the average car in America is 11 years old.

      Bluetooth 4.0 was standardized in 2010 and an addendum was added in 2011. Where will it be in 11 years? Will a Bluetooth device sold in 2022 have enough backward compatibility to work with a 2011 car? Should it?

      I think that automakers should get together and work out a standardized interface. Publish it. And then follow it for infotainment features. Create a reference design like Intel does with all of their architectures.

      The software running on the devices is where you do the differentiation – and that doesn’t go away with a standardized interface.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The nice part about modern cars – firmware updates. A BMW e90 with Bluetooth from 2006 will connect to the latest iPhone 4S for calls, provided it has had its updates. I doubt the basic connectivity standard is going to change much in the next 10 years such that the existing hardware is not going to work. You won’t get the latest bells and whistles necessarily, but the basic functionality will be there.

        And if the gear built into the car won’t do the job, easy enough to add an aftermarket doohickey. My Volvo 965 has a Parrot MKi 9200 kit in it to provide Bluetooth (Phone and streaming), USB, and iPod control. None of which really existed in cars in 1993 when it was built.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        krhodes1: The nice part about modern cars – firmware updates.

        I disagree with this statement. More often than not, ‘upgrades’ to computers don’t work half as well as advertised. I observe much more satisfaction from people who get something to work right (and how they want) and then never alter it, than those who plug in the next new thing pursuing some sort of improvement.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        krhodes1: The nice part about modern cars – firmware updates.

        Most people I know consider being compelled to go to a dealer for routine service work to be one of the NOT nice things about “modern” cars…

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @redav

        This is unrealistic. As others have pointed out, Bluetooth, as an example, is an evolving standard. New functionality is added to it over time. By making the car software-upgradable it is possible to evolve as well, such that your 5-6 year old car WILL actually work with your new phone. Car makers do not have crystal balls, last time I checked.

        @Steve65, well the alternative is to be like the built in analog cell phone in my friend’s 740iL, a very fancy paperwieght. Nobody is holding a gun to your head to get the update, but if you want your new phone to work, there you are. Better than having NO way of making it work, no?

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      I work at a high tech firm, we do a lot of college hiring, and they all seem to be buying or leasing new cars for the most part. Mustangs, Jukes, Souls, Civics and Kia Koupes all seem very popular, along with full sized trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Maybe it’s that older people buy cars if they think it’s being advertised for younger people?

      I don’t know. I certainly have more money now than I did when I was in my early 20s, but that doesn’t mean I can afford a new car.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    Does Gen Y enjoy old cars? I am not that old (29) but I would rather drive my 76 Toyota Celica to work everyday. When I look at newer automobiles I do not really get excited, They seem relatively unappealing to me having grown up in the halo / innovative insanity car era. I like electronics but do not want a touch screen in my car. Does Gen Y see cars as a mode of transportation or are they becoming enthusiasts? Any thoughts?

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I’m also part of “Generation Y” (20), and our generation seems to have the same variety in car preferences as any other.

      Some of my friends love classic cars; others simply want a reliable new(ish) car. There are badge-snobs; others couldn’t care less about the badge and simply want a good value. Nobody I know, however, wants gimmicks designed to appeal to “their” generation.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        “…our generation seems to have the same variety in car preferences as any other.” Too true. As we often find out, when marketing folks start to stereotype certain demographic groups, it almost always leads to products which just don’t fit the bill.

  • avatar
    WriterParty.com

    Good article. Old people trying to design “young cars” are missing the point completely. Being in the military I work with a LOT of young people who can afford new or almost-new cars, and the majority of us simply drive vanilla. C-segment sedan, C-segment coupes, midsized sedans, pickup trucks, mid-size or compact crossovers, cheap RWD coupes (Mustang, Camaro, Genesis). Full size sedans such as Chargers, 300s and even Impalas are fairly common too. Those of us with more money or brand snobbery buy 3-series, C230s or A4s.

    here’s what I DON’T SEE: box-shaped vehicles, “cute” tiny cars such as the Fiat 500 and VW Beetle, and B-segment subcompacts.

    In other words, most young people’s tastes are MORE vanilla compared to the Gen Xers and older. We want something that’s either big as hell, or is just the right size, that looks more expensive than it is and has a good sound system (or is easy to install a sound system in).

    If you really want to sell a lot of cars to young people, make a long sedan or a pickup truck or a midsized CUV/SUV for under 20k. Equip it with subwoofers and 18-20 inch rims, and allow us to plug our iPods, iPhones or droids into it and play our music.

    It’s not that complicated. We don’t want weird. We (generally) want vanilla – we just want a tasty vanilla in big servings that doesn’t cost too much.

    DISCLAIMER: I am 27 years old, so I’m on the slightly older side of Gen Y. Most of my coworkers are 20-24, though I do work with an 18 year old who bought a nearly-new “old man” Chevrolet Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      Joshua Johnson

      “If you really want to sell a lot of cars to young people, make a long sedan or a pickup truck or a midsized CUV/SUV for under 20k. Equip it with subwoofers and 18-20 inch rims, and allow us to plug our iPods, iPhones or droids into it and play our music.”

      This. As a fellow Millennial (25 yo), we have grown up in an age of endless customization for nearly every aspect of our life. I believe modular automobiles will be a part of the future, whereby the underlying frame, motor and drivetrain are standardized across an entire range (2dr, 4dr, pick-up, hatch, etc.), but the body and interior components are infinitely interchangeable. Not only will this allow everybody to have their own specialized transportation device, but if one tires of a particular option arrangement, it can be swapped for another configuration for a much smaller sum of money (think swapping cases for phones).

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “I believe modular automobiles will be a part of the future, whereby the underlying frame, motor and drivetrain are standardized across an entire range (2dr, 4dr, pick-up, hatch, etc.), but the body and interior components are infinitely interchangeable.”

        That makes sense to me. It worked wonderfully in the computer industry, until components became too small/cheap for that to work.

        Someone who’s adulthood began in the aftermath of 9/11 and whose employment barely survived the 2009 financial collapse may be too practical to sell their future (take out a loan) just because they’re bored with a perfectly good car. This certainly seems to be the ethos among a lot of the people I know in the 25-35 range. You could probably sell us lots modular upgrades a few hundred dollars at a time, though, as we have the money. Swap your seats for heated leather seats for $1200? Sure. Upgrade the radio/NAV for $400? Sure, why not? Especially if someone else can buy my old accessories on the used market. The times I’ve inquired about this kind of thing at the Ford or Toyota parts/service department, though, they look at me funny

        Oh, and the zeitgeist does seem to reflect something I’ve seen a lot in these comments: “If you want to market to us, the first step is to cut the crap, and start with the substance.” I’ve certainly experienced as much shallow marketing and entertainment as I can take, and folks who are just a bit younger than might not have never known anything else (?) — and they can see through it as easily as anyone (!).

        P.S. My wife and I agree: Having our car update Facebook *is* gimicky crap. Facebook is for keeping in touch with family and college-friends who live in far away places in a sort-of group conversation format. It’s an excellent way to do that, and it’s an important communication tool. The only overlap between Facebook and transportation is that I might use my car to go and visit someone who I talk to through Facebook — so, if my car is going to be part of my Facebook-enabled social-life, it needs to be a competent highway car.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I have to agree. I’m a JO in the navy and have seen much of the same. being on the closer side to 30, and with my non-military friends, we have the same taste as well, not caring at all to be marketed at. At 27-30 with decent jobs, most of my social circle are now at the point that we can afford a new car in the 20-30k range as well. I know tenfold the people driving civics, corrolas, and 3s than I do driving anything by Scion or any other youth-oriented market car.

      Marketing really has never worked on me, and I’m not brand loyal either. Cars that I’ve bought myself and reasoning are as follows:
      96 A4 – Price was right and I wanted a status symbol car at 20 years old. That was a big mistake.
      04 RSX-S – Getting the car I always wanted in high school that was competent enough to take to the auto-X and track. after the A4 I wanted the peace of mind that a manual Honda generally gives people.
      10 Mazda3 – Replacing the wife’s 00 civic coupe. We wanted a small hatch, the car was fun, and mazda was doing 0% financing. It was either this or a Jetta wagon, and this was a no-brainer for the financial and non-VAG reason.
      Now I’m looking at a FR-S/BRZ to replace my RSX, because it is the best car on the market for me and what I want to do with it (DD and track toy). That would make it 4 cars, 4 different brands for me to this point.

      As for apps and connectivity, I understand some people like/want Nav. Nobody gives a crap about facebook or twitter in your car. Tech-wise, most of our friends are happy with A2DP bluetooth streaming and calling (our 3 has it and we love it). Nav is an unneccesary luxury, and our phones do that already so we really don’t need it unless we don’t have to pay extra for it. The only other options we care about are things like sunroof, leather, and heated seats and I’m going back to cloth on my next car actually.

      Really the only things that I feel like my generation cares about is practicality, good looks (not quirky or cute), and price. Everything else, unless you want a status symbol car, is unneccesary. Hell, most don’t even buy fast cars anymore. I don’t know any guys under 40 who have a V-8 muscle car unless it’s a 6+ year old mustang. How’s that for not making sense?

  • avatar
    John

    Don’t know about Gen Y, but I think the automakers may have a problem with millenials. My parents let me learn how to drive on deserted country gravel roads when I was 12. All the kids in my high school counted the days till they could get their learners’ permits and driving licenses. My 15 year old daughter got her learners’ permit in August, and despite repeated offers, hasn’t driven a car yet. Most of her 15-16 year old friends aren’t interested in driving. Only one drives regularly. Have no idea what will happen when she leaves home as we live in the burbs with lousy public transportation.
    Socializing seems to be online, at the mall, and parties at friends’ houses. Daughter isn’t lazy or dumb, she doesn’t play video games all day, cars just don’t get her excited.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Unless she never leaves the house, someone is supplying taxi service to the mall and those parties. When (if) that stops, her interest in driving will spike.

      I learned to drive when I was 12 also, but didn’t get my license until my 17th birthday (and I only did it then because the learner’s permit expired). My first car was a motorcycle, and being able to afford a vehicle was the impetus for me starting to drive (ride) regularly. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to drive. I just couldn’t afford to. I got around by bicycle and bus.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Ding! We have a winner!

        When I was a kid, I walked or rode my bike if I wanted to go somewhere. Even in the dead of winter. My parents WORKED, they were not in the taxi business. And for much of my pre-driving years, I lived 15+ miles out of town.

        My friends with teenagers seem to be the kid’s taxi service, to the point of scheduling their work hours so they can be home when the kids are.

        Why would a modern teen, used to chauffeur service, bother with learning to drive? And heaven forbid pay for thier own car. Though I admit, I got a hand-me-down car with my license, all I had to pay for was gas. I was admittedly spoiled.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      This is funny for me on numerous levels. I graduated high school 10 years ago (Typing that made me feel old), and ot us driving was freedom. To my parents, me driving was freedom. When my brother (4 years younger) was able to drive, it was double freedom. Nothing made them happier than ending the parental taxi service, and nothing made me happier than being free to go where and when I wanted for the most part.

      I did get a car from them, my dad’s old car while he bought himself a mid-life crisis-mobile, but I was required to cover half my insurance and all my gas.

      I think a big part of the shift now is the cost. It cost me $220 a month to drive back then, about $80 in gas and the rest insurance. Working only weekends I was pulling in $4-500 a month during the school year. With current gas prices, I’m sure it would cost that $250/month just in gas for a teen to drive back and forth to school with the occasional weekend cruising. Throw my situation with 1/2 insurance on top of that, and I don’t think I could have afforded to drive on what I pulled working weekends at $7/hour and have any extra spending cash.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Ever since Sloan realized that he could use style and color to beat the Model T, automakers have competed in the mass market based upon features.

    In the past, the bar was pretty low. In the old days, one could add a bit more horsepower and a different color of paint in order to distinguish itself from its rivals, and to tier the lower-end models from the higher end vehicles.

    In the post war era, this sort of competition was based largely upon features, size and performance. An air conditioner, automatic transmission, radio and power windows could be used to segment a product.

    Later, the Japanese were able to add reliability as a tool for competitiveness. Previously, cars broke so often that there was a captive market waiting for stuff that worked more predictably and with less effort.

    Today, all of that is far more difficult. Even a humble econobox can come equipped with a multi-gear auto box, climate control, megawatt stereo system, power moonroof, doors and locks, and a leather interior. It might be as fast, if not faster, than a 60s-era muscle car, while using half of the fuel. Even the most unreliable among them is probably more reliable and requires less maintenance than the early 70s Japanese cars that revolutionized the market.

    The automakers have become victims of their own success. Car makers are now competing with technology because they don’t have much else that they can try to use to stand out.

    Of course, that creates a couple of problems. For one, technology is inherently unreliable because anyone who waits long enough to work out all of the bugs is going to find that the technology is obsolete by the time that it is perfected. Putting inherently unreliable stuff into a car that people expect to be reliable is prone to cause disappointment, including from those who would tolerate imperfection from a standalone technology device. We will tolerate bugs in our computers, phones, social networking websites, etc. that we would never tolerate in our cars.

    For another, most technology gains its value through “network effects”, which is essentially the benefit that is achieved when everyone uses the same standards to the point that it becomes commonplace. While a company such as Apple can manage to diverge from that, most tech cannot.

    Unlike a typical feature in a car, such as a power window, media technology works best for the consumer when it can interact with other devices that the automaker has nothing to do with. All of this unique software in cars is bound to create compatibility problems, which is exactly what tech users don’t need. Yet if the automakers resort to commoditizing their technology so that it works better, then they can no longer compete based upon having something that is unique.

    The business problem is considerable. I don’t see how it can be easily fixed. Going low tech isn’t the answer, but high tech isn’t easy, either.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      “Car makers are now competing with technology because they don’t have much else that they can try to use to stand out.”

      Completely agree. Building a car isn’t exactly rocket science anymore. My perception is, fundamental automotive design and manufacturing processes are mature and have very little room for significant improvement. Apart from advances in lightweight materials, I don’t think there will be any significant revolutions worthy of a competitive advantage in the coming years. It will remain styling and gee-whiz connectivity features for a while.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Industry-wide standards for plug-in devices. Then create a secondary market for the plug-in devices. Have a separate division of GM or Ford or whoever compete in that market as best they can, toe to toe, with anyone else who wants to be in it.

      No, you can’t back the customer into a corner and force them to buy your stuff this way, but at least they’ll be buying something and you have a shot at their money. As it is, I deliberately avoided cars with advanced electronics during my last (used) car purchase, and I have every reason to avoid it in the future, because my smartphone is so much better.

  • avatar
    Marko

    “A hard and fast rule with Gen Y is that the more a brand attempts to market themselves to this group, the more that Gen Y is repulsed by it.”

    YES, YES, YES.

    “Gen Y” is not a group of “like-minded zombies” (to quote another article on TTAC). Nobody likes to be pigeonholed into a contrived “group”.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    I think you’re missing the larger overall theme that is happening among our Generation, Derek. We are not owning cars anymore, because more and more of us are moving to urban areas where a car is no longer a necessity.

    For a lot of people, cars are simply an unnecessary expense, I wouldn’t even call it a luxury, because if you live in a metro area parking can be a costly and painful endeavor. I have friends who moved to NYC who pay as much to store their cars as my half of my apartment’s rent.

    Cars are moving upscale, even compact cars, which is why automakers are loading them with technology. Cars get in the way of teenagers texting and talking on the phone, and most of them would rather have the new iPhone or iPad, than a new compact car. Cars cost money, money that a lot of people don’t have anymore.

    Once upon a time there were no options other than owning a car, but car-sharing services, better public transportation options, and telecommuting are eliminating the need for many to own a car.

    Hell, I work from home. I don’t NEED a car. There are grocery stores, a post office, Home Depot, and lots of mom and pop shops all within a few minutes walk of my apartment. I only own a car because I want to. But not everybody does these days, and I don’t think “young people” cars are going to get much better than the current crop of offerings from all the major automakers. There have never been so many quality, affordable new cars…but I’d rather have a Fox-body Mustang for half the cost, and twice the fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Declining car ownership in favor of short-term rental may be true for those who live in the middle of NYC or other cities, but LOTS of us still live in rural or suburban areas and cannot rely on public transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        dts187

        NYC is a perfect example of where not to own a car. However, even in a moderately sized urban environment a car still serves a valuable function. For example, I lived in downtown Columbus, OH and still needed a vehicle. I believe Columbus is in the top 20 most populated cities in America and there still isn’t a proliferation of efficient public transport.

        harshciygar mentions that teens would rather have a gadget than a car. This may hold true in NYC and dense urban areas but most teens in my family still long for the day when they get turned loose on the roads.

        Geographic influence is a funny thing.

    • 0 avatar

      I live downtown in a major urban center, so I know all about the agony of owning a car when parking, insurance and gas are exorbitantly expensive. I’ve touched on many of the issues you listed above in previous columns, including one last week.

      Frankly, the idea of everyone abandoning cars for cycling and public transit is a hippie pipe dream for those who choose to spend their money on inflated rents in the downtown core. I take the subway to work (I hate cycling in traffic but love mountain biking) but I still like to drive and want to own a car because public transit is often unreliable, cramped and unpleasant. There are exponentially more out there that are averse to living downtown or taking alternative transit for work or recreation. Cars will still continue to be sold. Might as well try and make them better than staking everything on some starry eyed utopian notion of society.

      And you’re right; cars have never been better, and people bitch endlessly about how dull and boring and soulless they are – which leads into a future column that ties into the faux nostalgia we possess bygone eras because they are more “authentic” (read: primative)

      • 0 avatar
        dts187

        So Mr. Kreindler likes to hit some singletrack. I want to see an article about the alarming number of Subarus you see parked at trailheads.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        It all balances out in the end. If you live in a urban environment, you pay more for the desirability of the area. In return, you don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of commuting, car ownership, or finding designated drivers/paying for taxis.

        Workign on military bases limits me from these – rarely would anyone want to be within walking distance of a base. No hip cafes or vintage shops there… just payday advance, pawnbrokers, and prostitutes.

        My commute is long, but I at least live in a reasonably nice area where I have multiple bars, cafes, stores, etc. within a short walk.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        for those who choose to spend their money on inflated rents in the downtown core.

        Not inflated if you consider the cost of fueling, insuring and maintaining a car.

      • 0 avatar
        harshciygar

        I never said cars will cease to be sold. And I agree, the idea of people biking or walking to work is a hippie pipe dream.

        The thing is, before cars, people got around by walking, train, or trolley. Those systems, which were dismantled (largely at the behest of big auto companies, see LA Subway System) are starting to come back. Car ownership is less mandatory for more people now, than ever before.

        But I disagree wholeheartedly with your notion that there are more people averse to living downtown than to living in rural areas. I grew up in a rural area, and while I enjoyed midnight burn rides through un-populated back roads, getting something as simple as a box of nails requires 45 minutes of driving to the nearest hardware store.

        The trend (if the studies are to be believed) is that people are moving BACK to the cities. Just look at Detroit. I enjoy the seclusion of rural living, but the hassle isn’t worth it. Commuting is a nightmare in most metro areas, so why not just move closer to work? Like you mentioned, just driving around aimlessly is something of a luxury these days. The average American is slated to pay almost $4,000 for gas this year, if prices go where analysts think they will go (up!)

        Take into account insurance, maintenance, wear and tear, lost value…even a cheap, paid-for car costs thousands upon thousands of dollars to operate these days.

        What happens when gas reaches $5 a gallon? $6? There will always be a market for new cars…but even “cheap” cars are no longer cheap, more luxury than necessity when there are so many used cars out there.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The trend (if the studies are to be believed) is that people are moving BACK to the cities. Just look at Detroit.

        The city of Detroit lost 25% of its population (237,000 people) between 2000 and 2010. Not a good example of a growing city.

        If you look at the 30 most populous cities as of 2010 (this ranges from New York at #1 to Las Vegas at #30), they grew by about 5.8% from between 2000 and 2010. If we exclude Detroit from the top 30, that figure increases to 6.6%.

        Meanwhile, the overall population increased by 9.7%. Yes, most cities are adding population. But the rest of the country is growing even faster. While those cities are growing, their growth lags the national average. 88% of the US population lives outside of those thirty cities.

        I presume that if you break that down further, you will find more movement toward the suburbs. While there is a genuine urban renaissance and growth of New Urbanism that is attractive to some people, there are even more people who are doing what they’ve been doing for quite awhile — heading to the burbs. The urban revival is a niche that helps to define a segment of the market, but it doesn’t represent the whole by a long shot.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        afflo: you aren’t near JBLM are you?

        Your description sounds just like the area outside of the gate…

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        which leads into a future column that ties into the faux nostalgia we possess bygone eras because they are more “authentic” (read: primative)

        Depending on how you go about writing it, that could either be very interesting to read or make me hate you forever.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        jmo:

        “for those who choose to spend their money on inflated rents in the downtown core.”

        “”Not inflated if you consider the cost of fueling, insuring and maintaining a car.””

        Depends on which urban area.

        I lived in Seattle proper for several years and owned a vehicle the whole time.

        I could have moved closer to downtown, and paid about four to six hundred dollars more a month in rent, and not owning a car would have been slightly less annoying than where I lived in the Ballard neighborhood, which is well served by bus. But, I would have been at the mercy of the bus, which frankly sucks in Seattle unless you work downtown and can catch an express bus for commuting, which actually works out pretty good.

        So back to that four to six hundred dollars a month. I’ve calculated, on average per month, the car I’ve had for the past 10 years has cost me less than 300 dollars a month including financing, gas, insurance, tires, maintenance, etc.

        I’m still ahead of the game. Until I buy a new ride of course.

        My ex gf is from NYC, if she is the representative of NYC life, I’d gladly pay 600 dollars a month for vehicle costs to avoid that.

        Everything is about priorities. Live in a cool city with high rents, and forego the car? Or live in some lame strip mall laden cul-de-sac littered suburb with cheap rents, and be forced into owning a car?

        Or in reality, its wherever you can find a job now a days.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        A greater number of people live in areas where you really don’t need a car if not areas making car ownership a net liability, but still there are a very Large number of people living in areas where a car is a necessity…

        Why is it the people who really don’t need cars are being heavily marketed-to with ‘hip’ little urban microcars while all the people in Rural America and Suburbua only have ludicrous mobile freeway-fortresses masquerading themselves as pickup-trucks trying to capture their imagination?

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        And you’re right; cars have never been better, and people bitch endlessly about how dull and boring and soulless they are – which leads into a future column that ties into the faux nostalgia we possess bygone eras because they are more “authentic” (read: primative)

        As someone who is ‘faux nostalgic’ of cars that reached peak production before I was even born, ‘Primitive’ would be a distinct selling-point for me since I interpret ‘Primitive’ as ‘Operationally simple’ and more likely to allow me to either successfully complete repairs and maintenance myself or find a competent local mechanic to do it for me, rather than having to drive 40-50 miles back to the dealership for service.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    What’s going on with car dashboards right now is exactly what ruined CNN and other news outlets… the decision makers thought that ‘young’ people would want their news to look like video games and now overlay the screen with unreadable junk.

    All it would take for is one brave soul to make a brilliantly simple but utter usable car interior. Give a three year old an iPhone to play with and then give them a PSP… they’ll wonder what the heck all the buttons are for. That’s what ‘young’ people want.

    BTW… “A hard and fast rule with Gen Y is that the more a brand attempts to market themselves to this group, the more that Gen Y is repulsed by it. ” I think you’re describing Gen X. Gen-Y is incredibly advertising-unsavy. Sorry to paint a broad stroke, but no other demographic has so willingly handed over personal information to allow people to market stuff at them.

    • 0 avatar
      ringomon

      I don’t think that Gen. Y is necessarily unsavvy when it comes to advertising. I think they just have a different relationship to it then the previous generation.
      They are just as aware of marketing, they just see it as inescapable.
      Instead of butting heads with it, they just ignore it or use it to their advantage. Most people are making up a value calcualion when they hand over their personal infromation. They are getting something they want out of the trade, and can live with the rest of it.
      That’s my take at least.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      As a 40 year old Gen-Xer, I love being marketed to. The Jaguar ad theme “Gorgeous” especially resonanted with me in my thirties, as well as the Subaru ads with WRC Imprezas and the Pontiac Trans Am during my 20′s.

      Our cohort is not homogeneous, so I always resented the assumption that we all watched WWF, listen to grudge and house, wore our pants at our crotch, and played video games all day.

      But a good targeted ad can work wonders. On Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese channels here in Canada, there’s a concerted effort by Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, and Chrysler to consider their brands to my market, and I think it’s largely successful. It may not get me to buy, but it does allow me to picture myself in one of their vehicles without losing face, which is a concern for those of us who remember the stigma of buying domestic.

  • avatar
    jinnahjm

    The car matters more. I’m an early adopter of all computer hardware and software, but when spending as much as I would on a new car, a completely different set of decision making rules apply. For the last car I purchased, reliability mattered most, then resale value and perceived quality, then making sure my mother-in-law would be comfortable when travelling with us. Then style and gadgets.

    Get the basics right, or else I won’t even bother looking at the funky doodads. Really, it’s not rocket science.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    “Hyundai abstains from shots of cool hipsters sipping artistanal coffees or going snow boarding…”

    i.e. someone in Hyundai marketing/advertising has a clue. Exactly why advertisers use Zach Galifianakis dopplegangers to hawk products escapes me. You don’t aspire to be a hipster. You just spend $20 at the thrift store and there you are.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “Major “luxury” houses do not appeal to teens and 20-somethings, yet they are the most coveted by this group”

    This, despite the fact they don’t have apps that let their owners watch their cars being serviced at the dealer!

  • avatar
    Jimal

    It is interesting that marketers are just realizing that Gen Y doesn’t have a lot of money. The big secret is that this demographic has never really had a lot of money. Gen Y just has a voice disproportionate to its purchasing power.

    As a member of Gen X, I have a certain latent resentment about the fact that we were the direct descendants of the Baby Boomer generation, who sucked up most of the oxygen in the room, and were immediately followed by Gen Y, which has social media to tell the world it’s opinions. By the time the Internet became as prevalent as it is today, we were at the tail end of our 18-34 marketing shelf life.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Yeah. But we did get D-X, the Internet boom/bust and the last great American expansion.

      Y got George W, the worst recession in 70 years, and inflated GPA’s.

      I’ll take the X.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        While you raise some good points remember we are taking as much of the brunt of W and the Naughties as Gen Y. I could argue more even; Gen Y is just getting out of school and while they may find the job market tight us Gen Xers are in the prime of our breadwinning so the economic downturn hits us more. We were more likely to be laid off when companies downsized and will be less likely to be hired again because our experience comes at a cost.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I think automakers are wrong to conclude that future cars are cell phones with wheels. People will still buy cars for many other reasons. Gadgets aren’t so much the future but just another standard that car makers need to meet like safety, economy, performance, dynamics, style and reliability. Gadgets are just another check box that auto makers need to tick.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    I agree with your main point, but find some of your examples kind of clunky and the connections sloppliy drawn. I only agree because I already agreed.

    I’m not sure if I agree with the “Coach” example for example. I think you are reaching a bit. The main difference between coach and Louis Vuitton is that LV costs 2-3x more than Coach. Making it even more “exclusive”. Coach has stores in mid-grade malls, LV only n exclusive areas. Wider availability and lower prices mean you see less ‘cool’ people carrying them. LV also, just like coach, had had plenty of lines aimed at the younger set. Marc Jacobs and Murakami Takashi have put out bags with cartoon animals, and white bags with rainbow colors, etc… I would say a bigger driver of the ‘desirability’ of fashion items is celebrity culture. Coach is too cheap to be seen on celebrities. The kind of people that care about luxury fashion goods like this tend to be into celebrity culture. Hence not so much interest in Coach. Not sure how that relates to Hyundais at all.
    I think a better argument would be that Coach tried to go mainstream and as a result lost their sense of exclusivity.
    That’s not really a comparable situation to a mass market auto maker. Maybe if it were an article talking about a luxury car maker making entry level products or something.

    How do you explain phones? Most smartphones seem to be directly advertised towards the young demographic. I don’t see people balking at that… so why doesn’t your theory apply there?

    • 0 avatar
      ringomon

      I should mention that I just enjoy debating, so take my comments with grains of salt.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      People value what they cannot have, or what is exclusive.

      That’s why loaded people bought Maybachs. Sure the top of the line Mercedes is 99.8% as good as the Maybach, but out of every 99.8 Mercedes sold, there are only .2 Maybachs that come off of the production line.

      Or, if you are a female aged 16 to 29 and you haven’t found some dumb dude to buy you things, and you enjoy celebrity gossip magazines, the allure of LV purse is more intoxicating than a coach purse. Firstly, then are far less on the market and they are more expensive (exclusivity) and since Coach purses are cheaper every chick and her mother has one (the opposite of wanting what you can’t have)

      What was this article about? I sort of think I’m agreeing with you on something…

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “People value what they cannot have, or what is exclusive.”

        Some people value some things this way.

        But it’s not universally true. For instance, I can’t afford a BMW or a Mercedes, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in either one, because the people who drive them because
        a) The drivers of these vehicles are often and memorably rude to me in traffic, and the cars aren’t nice enough to be worth taking on that yoke.
        b) Conspicuous consumption is not really respected by my peers. I own a 10-year-old used Ford with leather seats and a sunroof — those luxury items are for my private enjoyment, and not to rub in the faces of people who are less fortunate. My parents generation used different shibboleths to communicate success, so I don’t need to waste 10x-20x what I paid for my used car to show that I’m successful. The way that I write, and the way that I conduct myself in person, are far better indicators of my success than an expensive car. An expensive car is really an indicator that the owner is in debt up to his or her eyeballs, or an indicator of ego, than an indicator of success…

        So, there’s a kernel of truth to your slogan, but the complexity of real life makes it next-to-useless to explain the general behavior of humans.

  • avatar
    brett_murphy

    I found this to be an informative look at the issue from somebody in a position to offer some insight.

    Then I got to the end of your article and thought: He thinks GenY is the most jaded and cynical ever?

    How *adorable*.

    I might give you jaded, but it is my opinion (and only opinion based on the youngsters I know) that you’ve got a lot of work to do on the cynicism. =)
    Truly yours,
    A GenXer

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    One generation’s Hyundai is another generation’s VW.

    Technology has always been the epicenter of MSM marketers. It’s the elixir that stirs the drink of delusion.

    Desktop, CD, laptop, cellphone, DVD, smartphone, Ipod, Iphone… the beat goes on.

    The costs go up and down and up and down…

    A saving grace from all this?

    Cheap stuff eventually become free gifts and hand me downs. By that time you don’t even need it.

    Also when a car becomes ‘good’ at everything, it becomes unexceptional.

    A lot of cars now fit that last category… which is why cheap financing is so important when selling cars.

    Otherwise few would bother with the five-figured divestment.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      it is ironic that the title picture is from a toyota because toyota have 2 examples of cars that pretty much create their own hype

      the Prius C

      the FT86

      cars like this hit the gen y zeitgeist

      your articles about the GM lame attempts like the Sonic and the two NAIAS concepts bears stark comparison

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Subaru has kept the ladies who wear flannel by marketing to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Straightfamily man here, and I’d like a Subaru Forester or Outback.

      Subarus are pretty popular in my town, in all demographics. It’s a Midwestern college town, where we get snow — but full-sized SUVs don’t get much respect unless they’re pushing a snowplow or towing a trailer. Overall, it’s a very reasonable place to live.

      Alas, I couldn’t afford a Subaru, so I settled for a Ford Escape. It’s good vehicle that solves the same problem and has some redeeming qualities, not the least of which was that I was able to find one with the right options (LATCH, leather, sunroof, towing package, ~100k miles) in good shape for around $6k. Since so many people like Subarus, a comparable Subaru would have cost me around $10k. The V6 in the Escape gets lousy mileage (14MPG around town, so far), but it solves the problem I had for a price I could afford, and is fun to drive.

      Anyway, if you need the capabilities of small SUV and really don’t want to be “SUV people”, then a Subaru is about the only option. I really really really didn’t want to be “SUV people” but I needed to replace my ancient Ranger with a kid-hauling station wagon that had some towing capability — and an Escape was the closest thing to that spec that I can afford.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Great thread. These kind of threads are what keep me reading TTAC with so many other choices.
    Like the burgeoning choices of the internet, the car-buying public is fragmented. My neighbors are California-rich public government pensioners. They sold their Scion xB for a Versa and their Highlander for a Forester. My wife’s paralegals drive newer 3-series, the attorneys drive 10+ year old Toyondadzas. Maybe it’s a Pacific NW thing, but in healthcare the internal medicine/hospital physicians all drive the beaters to the hospital (old legacies, 5+ year old Minis, e39s, 90′s hondRys), the surgeons Boxsters, Miatas, or scrupulously maintained older 5,ers, the nurses and administrators a parade of Venzas, Daimler/Mercedes E’s/C’s/ML’s/GL’s, and various flavors of Volvos. The imaging, respiratory techs and lab people drive SuburbAtahoeLiS. The various other classifications an unpredicatable parade of cars. The Cadillacs are wild cards- I can’t predict the employment classification from the ride unless they drive in at 09:30 then I know they are pharmacy reps!

  • avatar
    360joules

    The point of my windy thread is automakers can’t predict buyers to the extent that they think they can. I overheard a few low 20-something car buyers arguing over the car ads the other day- used 4runner, Grand Cherokee, or (shudder) high mileage Passat/Jetta/A6 was on the radar. Sonic/Cruze/Fiesta? Not a peep. Without room or power or traction or handling dynamics then a big old screen or iPhone connectivity will have attraction only to the most flaky segment of appliance purchasers.

  • avatar
    david42

    Derek, this is a great post. I’m thrilled to see all of the thoughtful comments it has provoked–makes me proud to be part of the TTAC community.

    I’m in my early 30s, so my personal perspective doesn’t count for much on this topic. But I will mention my concern about The Kids These Days. For whatever reason, they’re obviously less interested in cars than my generation, and far less so than our elders. As a car nut, this breaks my heart. Of the cars available today, what would possibly bring a smile to someone’s face in 30 years? Sure, the retro muscle cars, the Miata, and the BRZ/FT-S (hopefully). But everything else, from the Prius to the S-Class, will be about as relevant as a three-decade-old computer. I think today’s wildly exuberant SUVs will eventually take on the status of the old rocket-finned Cadillacs, but even that kind of appreciation might die with Generation X.

    So I can’t blame The Kids These Days for tuning out. To some extent, the automotive needs of young people have changed, and the need for cars just isn’t what it used to be. But the cars have changed, too. On a day-to-day basis, that’s a wonderful thing: instead of style and power, we’re getting reliability and safety. But in the long term, it will mean the death of car culture.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Being closer to your age I long for the time when your first car was something simple and light weight. Regulations will never allow simple basic fun to drive cars. Cars that you could pick up for $500, throw gas in and run indefinitely. Everything is so much more invovled now days, and cars are practical, reliable tanks.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    “If the car is lame, your target demographic will figure it out.”

    AND we all share notes.

    At least those of us who use the Internet regularly all share notes, which means that we will all figure it out much faster than our parents and grandparents did in previous decades.

    The answer, of course, is quality that goes deep in to the product. If that’s there, the only thing that the marketing has to do is point out that quality. There’s no way a 30-second TV spot or a glossy ad can get these kind of details across, but who ever took that stuff seriously? (I’m in my mid 30s, and glossy brochures lost their magic the first time I made one with a mid-90s desktop publishing suite.)

    This deep quality doesn’t mean that a Fiesta needs to have leather seats (that’s window dressing), but it does need to be well suited for the purpose it was intended, whether you’re looking at it from across the parking lot or looking at a worn out part under a microscope a decade after the machine was built.


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