Generation Why: A Few Takeaways From A Dumb Marketing Study

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
generation why a few takeaways from a dumb marketing study

Since many of you old-timers see us young folks as self-absorbed brats, I decided I wouldn’t spam TTAC with my “angry young man” rants too often – but today is a special case, with the results of a Deloitte study on Gen Y being released. As you’d guess, they are about as accurate as Toyota’s notion that consumers aged 18-30 would want to buy boxy subcompacts that they can customize.

According to the study, Generation Y wants hybrids, safety and in-car connectivity. Ok, not so far fetched. We care about the environment, we don’t want to die in car crashes and we like smart phones. A close reading of the article reveals some of the study’s “findings” to be dubious at best. I’d love to know how much this study cost, and whether automakers are seeing a good ROI on it after 4 years of running it. If it has anything to do with the launch of the Fiesta movement (which got millions of “social media impressions” but didn’t really help sales), or Chevrolet paying some middle-aged douchebag to kickflip a Sonic or the dumb commercials Toyota is running for the Yaris using the now lame and pandering term “epic”, then it’s money wasted that could be spent developing cars that aren’t completely lame. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but if this is what auto makers are seriously using, then no wonder they can never seem to get youth marketing right.

1) “Gen Y consumers are willing to spend more than $3,000 for hardware that delivers connectivity, said Joe Vitale, global automotive sector leader for Deloitte’s parent company, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. “

More than $3,000? What kind of preposterous figure is this? Do these marketing executives realize how much $3,000 is to someone working retail or an entry-level office job making $30,000? The only explanation I can muster is that the survey respondents are totally disconnected to reality, or the results were fudged. I don’t know a single person who would spend over $3,000 to have their $200 smart phone and $200 iPod connect with a $16,000 car. That $3,000 is a few months rent or mortgage payments, a year or so of electricity, cable and cell phone bills, a hell of a lot of groceries, a supercharger kit for a sport compact or the bridge between a new compact and a new mid-size car. If this is what automakers are relying on when planning the next generation of cars, they need to fire whatever half-wit consultants they are employing yesterday. God forbid I ever sit in on a youth marketing seminar and hear figures like this thrown around.

2) The survey found that 57 percent of Gen Y consumers expressed an interest in hybrid vehicles; 2 percent were interested in pure battery vehicles; and 37 percent favored vehicles with a traditional gasoline-only powertrain.

Note, “expressed an interest” in no way means “I will buy a hybrid for my next vehicle” let alone “I will only consider a hybrid.” I am interested in hybrids. Just this morning I thought that the Prius V looks kind of cool.. Would I end up buying a hybrid? Probably not, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. A base model Prius c costs $19,000 and gets 53/46 mpg while a fully loaded Hyundai Accent gets 30/40 mpg and costs $16,795. Yes, the city fuel economy is much better, but will the savings in fuel really justify the price premium? I suspect that when there’s real money on the table, only the die-hard status-seeking snobs will go for the hybrid while most others will opt for a traditional gasoline car.

3) Fifty-nine percent ranked in-dash technology as the most important part of a vehicle’s interior and almost three-quarters of all respondents sought touch-screen interfaces.

I suspect this comes from the prevalence of touch screen smart phones, where your undivided attention is focused on using the touch screen. While you’re driving, these systems are a pain in the ass for the motorist (I’ve heard many iPhone users remark that texting-while-driving is impossible with an iPhone, so it’s not all bad). The other much discussed problem is that these systems never work properly and people inevitably go back to the tried-and-true auxiliary cable input.

4) The survey also found Gen Y consumers are willing to spend an extra $2,000 for a bundle of safety features such as collision avoidance systems, blind spot detection and sleep alert systems, the survey found. Said Giffi: “They’re wholly acknowledging that distracted driving is an issue but they’re not saying that they want to be any less connected in the car.” “It’s almost as if they’re saying ‘I’m going to be distracted, so I want the car to give me protection from myself,'” Giffi said. “The safety technology they want is the next generation of accident-avoidance technology.”

So, the solution to people texting and driving is to throw in more electronic nannies to enable this behavior by making it easier to avoid an accident? Sounds like the indulgent helicopter parenting that has poisoned a lot of my generation. I wish we could stigmatize distracted driving like we did to drunk-driving. By the way, the shame of telling friends you got into a car accident because you were texting is way worse than not being able to update your Facebook status about how much you love the new Flo Rida song.

Join the conversation
3 of 80 comments
  • Acuraandy Acuraandy on Jan 20, 2012

    No. No. NO. Once again, the focus group has experienced an EPIC fail. Personally (and I fit this demographic), i'd like a sub $20k muscle car with a big V8 and a 6spd manual. With an AM/FM/XM radio w/AUX plug in, and as little bullshit to break in a couple of years as possible. Think: Plymouth's 'Rapid Transit System' or the countless Mustang variants. I can appreciate a good hot-hatch, but i'm just not willing to drop $25k on one with all 'the toys'. (Focus Platinum, i'm looking SQUARELY at you). Thanks to CAFE standards and lack of 'cheap' gasoline, my dream won't happen. Thanks EPA douchebags for taking the joys of -affordable!- torque away...jerks.

    • Les Les on Jan 21, 2012
      Personally (and I fit this demographic), i’d like a sub $20k muscle car with a big V8 and a 6spd manual. With an AM/FM/XM radio w/AUX plug in, and as little bullshit to break in a couple of years as possible. No you don't, only latter-day baby-boomers who see the late-60s/early-70s through rose-tinted glasses want such disgusting retromobiles, every focus-group knows that. ;)

  • Sumatraguy Sumatraguy on Jan 22, 2012

    I think this is a great discussion. It's intertesting to read b/c my mother-in-law just purchased a new 2011 Honda Accord EX-L V6 and after having spent a week with the car recently and then returning to my 2007 Accord V6, I found myself enjoying the much more simple dash layout and the fact that other than the basics for me (nice V6, CD Player, climate control)there really was nothing on her car that made me want it more than my current one. Then again I'm soon to be 44 yrs. old so perhaps I'm a bit fusty for all this techie stuff.