By on January 19, 2012

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.



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80 Comments on “Generation Why: A Few Takeaways From A Dumb Marketing Study...”

  • avatar

    In case no one was watching or listening or reading, there is an ongoing effort to stigmatize “distracted driving”, which in current useage translates to “using a cell phone while driving, hands-free or not”. Has Giffi been out of the country, perhaps in a lunar orbit, for the last year?

  • avatar

    I wish we could stigmatize distracted driving like we did to drunk-driving.

    Well stated, whippersnapper!

    • 0 avatar

      Driving can be dangerous in general. There will always be distractions. There are already laws on the books that allow for ticketing when a driver violates the traffic code, whatever the reason.

      I’d rather be legally allowed to use my cell phone with a hands free system while driving and take with it the risk that someone else might distractedly hit me than not legally be allowed to use my phone, iPod, etc, in the car even if it meant the roads were technically safer.

      There is always a balance that needs to be struck between freedoms and security, and I for one do not wish to give up any additional freedoms.

  • avatar

    In the last article of this series you referred to members of Gen Y as being cynical and jaded.

    Perhaps so, but not nearly as much so as those of my generation: Gen X.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. I don’t know where the idea comes from that gen Y is so terribly jaded. Everything I’ve seen shows them to be much more civic and upbeat. Perhaps not OK with the current status quo, but not pissed and pessimistic like Xers were so often criticized for.

      I think it’s three things:
      1) the tendency for older folks to associate the current crop of kids with the last generation
      2) the fact that so many gen Yers are in high school now, a time of narcissism and moodiness regardless of generation
      3) the fact that baby boomers, who became engaged in protesting and demonstrating by college age, perhaps see the lack thereof in gen Y and interpret it as detachment.

      • 0 avatar

        I always wonder about the idea of boomers as protestors. The 60’s generation has come to be defined by that, but what % of the population actually participated? Sometimes I think people (I’m speaking in generalities, not directly to the poster above)only remember the most outstanding events (Woodstock, Kent State) and apply that paradigm to the whole population.

        For example I am not sure that just as large of a % of the population engaged in anti-Iraq war protests as those that did for Vietnam. Not without seeing some statistics at least. It must also be noted that the threat of being drafted into service is a great motivator for protest to those that otherwise might be fine sitting on the sidelines.

      • 0 avatar

        @DuVoe, Don’t buy into the crap they tell you on the History Channel, or in school even. The big anti-war protests only took place when large numbers of draftees were being sent to Vietnam….like it or not. Let me explain Unlike previous wars, the WWII draft that started in 1940 continued after 1945. The draft ended in 1973. While most of those who served in Vietnam were drafted into the military, before 1968 almost all the military personnel who served volunteered for Vietnam duty. By 1967 the military couldn’t get enough volunteers for Vietnam duty, so draftees were sent to Vietnam irrespective if they wanted to go or not. That’s when the problems started and that’s when the big anti-war demonstrations started.

  • avatar

    Mini once told me that the in-car entertainment system in the Countryman was able to create automated Twitter and/or Facebook messages for you, while you were driving, without any input of yourself. Basically, it would tweet something in the tune of “Enjoying myself in my Mini Countryman!!1 OMG” when you’d take a turn at speed. That sums Derek’s story up quite nicely I think. It’s like your dad saying something is cool. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as he says it to other dads and not his children.

    I think the lessons of the smartphone can better be applied to cars if car manufacturers would look at the way they improve user friendlyness. Making Twitter easier to use in any car is as helpful as making it easier to use while cutting a tree with a chainsaw – I am too occupied to read anything let alone responding to it. Just make my damn phone pair to the damn bluetooth system without having the connection go AWOL every five seconds already.

    As James May once famously wrote: “Market research gave us the Suzuki X-90, a car that sold so badly you probably can’t remember what it looked like. Apparently, it was exactly what you wanted.”

  • avatar

    For purposes of these studies, can we just replace “Generation Y” with “The trust-fund having, hipster douche-bags that we see on the youtubes alla-times?” That seems to be what these car companies mean.

  • avatar

    The only substantial info this survey seems to provide is that young people want technology in their cars. That could be determined by common sense. I agree that it is hard to imagine ‘young people’ happily paying another $3k for these features. Someone (Hyundai) will just make them standard if that is the trend.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, the fact that ipod/usb/aux integration is standard on hyundais now, means that in the future, no one will expect to pay a cent more to have them. If your cars don’t offer them, or don’t offer them very cheaply, you’re out of the game.

  • avatar

    I work in market research… there’s nothing wrong with actually doing proper research, the problem is that decision makers are willfully blind to the fact that consumer surveying is

    a.) For the most part a self-selected sample
    b.) Really about what people think they are than who they actually are.

    Properly conducted research can filter out these issues, but at the price point at which most work is conducted, you have to be savvy about the results that you are getting. Unfortunately, nobody commissions research for the hell of it, it’s almost always done with some kind of agenda.

    And this is the point that Gen X’ers are making about Gen-Y-centric marketing. The demographic as a whole has not had the same kind of life experience, and in general is not very work-hardened. So they themselves aren’t objectively filtering their responses. The companies looking at the research see all this enthusiasm for the latest and greatest and don’t want to ask whether or not Gen-Y can really afford the stuff either.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said. With any research, unless you know the questions that were asked and how the data were analyzed, you can’t conclude much of anything.

      It is notoriously difficult to get accurate information on how much people will actually pay for a feature. It’s easy for survey respondents to say they’ll pay as long as there’s no need to actually do so. Phrasing like “expressed an interest in” is very weak and suggests that the questions were worded (intentionally or unintentionally) to yield high numbers.

      Conventional wisdom has been that, unless a feature provides a major advantage (think leather, sunroof, nav five years ago), few people will pay more than a few hundred dollars for it.

    • 0 avatar

      As someone who works in the business of automotive advertising and marketing, I agree with your point about agendas and research. But your closing statement is hilariously naive. When in the history of marketing has a company ever let the target consumer’s ability “to afford the stuff” get in the way of selling something that appeals to said target?

      • 0 avatar

        “When in the history of marketing has a company ever let the target consumer’s ability “to afford the stuff” get in the way of selling something that appeals to said target?”

        Two words: “Fiat 500” A product with a business plan that was a little too much wish list. They wanted to be the new Mini without counting the sales channels that they were selling too. The market is who you can sell too, not who you want to sell to. It’s a simple maxim that gets violated a lot in the heat of the product cycle. “Animal Spirits” if you will.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting, if you don’t mind me asking how did you get into automotive advertising and marketing? I take it you may work in LA (Mullholland) screen name.

  • avatar

    My in-laws abide by the “the more gadgets are in a car, the more will break” philosophy, which is darn good. We’ve reached a point where automatic windows and a decent sound system are probably not much of a reliability issue in most cars, but geez putting a 2-year old crappy computer with an equally crappy touch screen in the dash of a crappy car (or a nice one) and expecting it to work with any semblance of reliability in 5-10 years is quite the gamble. Not to mention that “sweet” touchscreen and computer will look ridiculously outdated in – oh – about 3 years….i.e. what every nav system built more than 3 years ago looks like in most cars now.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe if you look objectively at the reliability of multipurpose computers/software, they are notoriously unreliable. We are so used to anything from microsoft crashing that we hardly even notice anymore. This blasé attitude has bled into everything computers touch. I get surveys asking about rates of dropped/blocked calls–it’s okay for failures with cell phones that weren’t for landlines. It seems no one can get the bluetooth to work right in the new Focus, but they seems perfectly fine with it since there are other ways to stream music.

      A slightly different take on the notion of “the more gadgets are in a car, the more will break” is not that there’s a greater probability that something will fail (which is statistically true), but instead “the more gadgets there are, the less likely that they will be highly functional.” There are a few factors that go into this:
      – Diminishing returns effect: The first features are the most significant, and subsequent ones offer only incremental improvements. Consider the first word processors. Being able to easily edit, format, spell check, etc. dramatically improved ease of writing papers, but despite now being vastly larger & more feature-laden, they haven’t improved much in the last decade. Similarly, adding a radio to a car = big deal. Adding tape/CD player, also an improvement, but not as big. Adding satellite = again, good, but also not as big. Adding internet streaming = okay…

      – I am convinced that most companies don’t understand how to develop the best solution to a need. Often they don’t understand the ‘need.’ They may solve only part of the true need, or they may invent a need and offer a solution to that. A great example is the touch screen. What do I need in my car that buttons and knobs don’t do? Except for nav, I can’t think of anything. When you don’t properly address the true need, your products will not work as well as they should. The real needs of a car/driving haven’t increased over the last few years, so it’s unreasonable to think the number of solutions (gadgets) in cars should have.

      – More gadgets = more effort/resources to optimize them. I don’t think they get that attention. If you add 10 features instead of 2, each feature won’t be as developed, and so won’t work as well. There’s only so much money to put into the car, the more bells & whistles, the cheaper everything has to be.

  • avatar

    I’m 25, just grossed about $38k this year, so I guess this puts me right in the demographic they’re after. I also bought my first new car this year.

    If anybody of importance happens to read this;

    STOP IT NOW!!!!!!!!!

    1.) I want a radio in my car, with a CD player, and a few speakers that won’t blow in a year. I DO NOT want a damn computer in my dashboard, and there is no way in hell I would pay a cent extra for one on that matter.

    2.) Touchscreens? How in the hell am I suppose to work the buttons if I can’t feel them out (because, you know, watching the road and what not). This is the STUPIDEST idea, and as much as I loathe government intervention, this is one category I wouldn’t bitch about.

    3.) Hybrids? Are you fucking kidding me? Right now I have a five year debt to pay off. The last thing I want to do after the car is paid off is to take out a second loan to replace the batteries. I guess I would have to start saving the money I spent on fuel from day one.

    4.) Safety? I own a 1983 Jeep CJ-7, that I do drive on occasion. If that doesn’t speak for itself, then no, I don’t want a bunch of nannies, dings and dongs alerting me constantly. I’m perfectly capable of driving a car myself, and trying to sell me on anything differently is a direct insult.

    So I said I actually did buy a new car this year to add to my fleet. Well, it was a Mustang V6. Not a single option, RWD, 305hp, excellent quality interior, very simple and easy to work on and maintain once the warranty runs out. My other new car is a 06′ Liberty CRD Limited. Enough luxury and gadgets that make long road trips nicer, excellent fuel economy, built like a much bigger truck, and once again simple and straight forward to maintain and repair.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to guess that as a 25-year-old with three cars, you’re probably not typical.

      Which underscores an often overlooked point: there are some young people who want gadgets/connectivity/touchscreens. There are some who want offroaders/rearwheeldrive/muscle. There are probably some who prioritize practical/fuelefficient/lowmaintenance.

      The dumbest possible conclusion from a marketing study would be that a target population is overwhelmingly of one mind. I’ll presume that these marketers are not complete morons, and they will interpret their results knowing that young people have a wide diversity of opinions and desires.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, I’m an 19 year old with one car, and I would consider myself pretty (statistically) typical of other people my age and 5 years above. I attend college, work 2 jobs to afford said college, and I just got my own apartment that I share with a roommate. I know for a fact that if I could pay $500 EXTRA on a new car that allowed me to OMIT these features and instead opt for traditional controls and buttons, I would! Well, I’d probably just pick a different car, but still. My ex-boyfriend had to get his right leg amputated… why? Because he crashed his 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe into a 1987 Ford Bronco… because he was trying to operate the computer shit in his vehicle. It’s inconvenient! It’s stupid! It didn’t work on the 1989 Buick Reatta, it ain’t gonna work now. I’m glad I bought a cell phone with a slide-out keyboard in addition to the touch screen, because guess what? One year later, the touch screen is crap. Perhaps these car companies want to CRASH the used car market in the future by ensuring that their cars will no longer be functional 5 years down the road.

      • 0 avatar

        +1 thrashette.

        Not to mention, every time I see a factory in-dash nav or infotainment system, I can’t help to think how dated it will be (not to mention appear) in 5 years or so.

      • 0 avatar

        thrashette, I completely agree with you, and although I’ve been saying that computers in cars are dangerous for a long time, it makes me sick to hear real stories that prove it.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree with you. I’m also 25, and I just bought a car.

      I got a ford focus Se with sport package. I had to special order one with a manual transmission. I don’t want an automatic – they break. I don’t want a touchscreen – they’re slow and gimmicky. I don’t want to connect to Facebook while I drive – no one gives a shit about your daily grind.

      The only technology I needed to have was AUX input or USB input for iphone music, and traction control (biggest safety technology since seatbelts.)

      The car has to weigh less than or close to 3000 pounds, because anything more is just too much car and too heavy to have any fun with.

      My other ride, which was previously my daily driver for 2 years, is a 1984 mustang svo. No traction control, no airbags, no radio, tons of road noise, RWD, no HVAC, just pure car.

      • 0 avatar

        We looked at the Focus. The biggest turn off for us both was the Radio. I thought it was a Sync system, it wasn’t. I don’t know what it was, but half way through the test drive I just turned the thing because I couldn’t figure out how to use it.

        That, and the fact that the wife wanted a sedan, I wanted a Hatch. Their junk automatic wasn’t an option for us either.

        In truth, we were probably going to hold out for a Sonic, but after some discussion, and running numbers, we decided if we’re going to spend this much let’s get something a bit more special and we opted the Mustang. I love the radio in that; it has a knob for the tuner; you don’t see that anymore. Great car.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree on touchscreens. I could make a phone call while driving using the speed dial and speakerphone on my old phone with raised button.

      Since I got a touchscreen phone, it goes away in the center console. Any attempt at interaction while driving is pointless.

  • avatar

    I think your arguments are a bit naive. Deloitte doesn’t exactly hire morons, either.

    1. Sales are being lost and won based on “can I plug my iPod into it?” and “can I access my Facebook on the touch screen?”. Think beyond simply adding the cost of your iPhone and home computer/networking hardware. What incremental hardware costs are required in the vehicle for all these connectivity features? I would argue that connectivity includes factory GPS systems, which we all know are quite expensive. Also consider that just because we are willing to pay for it, doesn’t mean we can actually afford it.

    2. Hybrid vehicle sales have taken off over the last 10 years. People are interested, they are buying in large numbers and clearly don’t care or can’t do the math to figure out they will likely never break even on fuel costs. It is still about image.

    3. People want in-dash technology, most importantly in the form of a touch screen. It is probably not safe, but they want it. Now it is up to the manufacturers to make the technology safe and effortless.

    4. Driving is a chore to most. Us TTAC regulars are the 1% who enjoy and care about driving. One day it will all be autonomous and we won’t have opportunities to make mistakes in the first place.

    • 0 avatar

      +1, especially on point #4.

      Most people simply do not enjoy driving anymore, especially Gen Y. It’s more a chore than a pleasure.

    • 0 avatar

      Most hybrid buyer do in fact do the math. And some may dig the image, but most just feel better about getting better mileage. So it is worth it for them, just like leather is worth it for others.

  • avatar

    These types of studies generally are BS. Garbage in, garbage out.

  • avatar

    Derek, if you keep looking for things that make you angry, you’ll be old before your time.

    Crappy marketing surveys are the norm. Don’t burn your youth away raging at all the stupid things in the world. The best thing you can do with your time is ignore them and do something you love.

  • avatar

    I live with your demographic. He wants a hybrid, and both his slightly older siblings have one. His first response to a car is ‘how’s the stereo?” which includes an assumption of bluetooth, ipod, etc. He is exactly what these marketers are highlighting, and he is just a couple years’ professional growth away from buying that car. He has never read an auto blog, nor has anyone he knows except me. But when he and his friends go to buy a car, you can be damn sure they are looking for what the Deloitte folks have suggested. They are not looking for the mythical diesel stick wagon with ostrich leather interior.

    O and Derek, Toyota did market their first xB correctly. Unless you can quote any study that shows its demo buyers were not the intended group, I will choose to believe all the evidence that says they hit the nail on the head, rather than believing the auto bloggers who insist first gen xBs were only driven by blue hairs in Florida. Unfortunately after that big hit, they listened to to many other American focus groups who wanted the xB to be bigger and more powerful. Can’t win ’em all.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Scion (particularly the xB) had a younger than average demographic mean. Mind you, the average for the brand (as of 2008) was 30, and the tC had a lower demo than that, so the xB is going to be higher as a result. And the reason they redesigned it to be larger was to appeal to the older buyers who cross shopped it against larger CUVs as an alternative to a larger vehicle, like a minivan or small crossovers. So Toyota may very well have shot themselves in the foot by redesigning the car to make it more appealing to the upper end of demographic buyers in an attempt to expand sales. Let’s face it, when your demo runs from 16 to 40, it’s hard to build volume downward.

      The issue at hand is that as a “cool, lifestyle” brand, scion has pretty much failed. There is a very strong ricer-flavored following, but the fact is if anyone over the age of 40 owns a scion, it hurts the perception of Scion as a youth oriented, sporty stylistic brand. Face it, if your Dad likes it, it’s probably no longer cool.

  • avatar

    As Garfield the Cat once observed, Television causes stupidity. All these “connectivity” gadgets just take the trend even further.

    And I refuse to accept this Twitter thing… 140 letters? It is not a message, it is a data fart.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a conversation, not a soliloquy.

      Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

      Like many things in life, it’s got its good uses and it’s huge waste of time and thought uses.

      (I was a twitter sketptic until I started using it as a way to communicate with a community of like-minded people to promote a website that I have. It’s given me access to a wide range of people and thought that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.)

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Whew. I’m glad that the fugly designs on virtually all cars (even some of the v expensive ones), coupled with dashboards that closely resemble the cheap REMCO crystal radios that were sold in the early 60s don’t bother purchasers at all.

    Just give ’em that “connectivity”.

    Which – by the way – is easily overcome by the jammer which I constantly carry.

  • avatar

    “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. – John Lydgate, later adapted by Abraham Lincoln

    These “marketing” people should take these words into consideration. Trying to appeal to the (supposed) lowest common denominator unique to a “generation” won’t work; Generation Y is just as diverse as any other. Yes, certain preferences change in their frequency in the population, but pigeonholing isn’t going to make any generation feel welcome.

  • avatar

    I feel like the marketing research missed one very obvious detail: Gen Y has consistently proved to be one of the most difficult demographics to sell products to through traditional advertising, and they are tech savvy enough to spot new-media advertising a mile away. The sad truth is that we have been subjected to a deluge of focus grouped targeted ads since we were in the womb, and in some respects, we have been inoculated to much of this idiotic group-think.

    Having said that, pretty much all of the points are valid, if the numbers seem a bit skewed. Except that last one. I don’t know a single person (without a kid) under the age of 30 who cares about active safety systems unless asked a loaded question about them. Recognition of your own mortality doesn’t even kick in till 30, I have a hard time believing that the 20-something hybrid stereo shoppers are volunteering “yes, please add that radar cruise control that my grandpa has.”

  • avatar

    For most people buying cars, $3,000 isn’t $3,000. It’s $20 a month.

  • avatar

    I know a fair number of Gen Y types who actually have large volumes of money and credit. Sadly, they do care about video game dashboards. A couple of them were blown away by Cadillac’s Cue video, perhaps available here:|_Cadillac_Awareness_|_Cadillac_CUE_-_Awareness_|_CUE_|_cadillac_cue&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Awareness-Cadillac-Cadillac_CUE_-_Awareness&utm_content=Search&utm_term=cadillac_cue

    “It’s like my smart phone!” to paraphrase their excitement. I couldn’t resist pointing out to them that they’ve each had at least three Driods or iPhones in the time I’ve know them, about two years. Buying something that costs a hundred times as much and may prove to be as durable seems foolhardy, but these are the guys who can change Cadillac’s demographics in the short term. They also care about status a decisive amount. Even if they don’t admit caring about it, they care that the women they meet School of Fish or at clubs care about status. That may be Cadillac’s undoing, as status for their demographic is spelled BMW, or maybe Audi. The Audi has to be pretty far up the range though, while the BMW can be a bargain leased 335i. I’m going shopping after lunch for a full sized truck for one of these guys, since too many dates that didn’t like his Dodge Magnum R/T has him shopping for two vehicles to replace it. The Magnum is perfect for taking his surf boards to the beach almost every day while also being a big luxurious car for taking four guys and their clubs to the golf course. It also has room for the samples he need to carry in his job. Unfortunately, he finds that he’d rather buy a truck and lease an established luxury car than tell gold diggers why he drives it. Most of his peers already drive the right luxury cars, and he’s joining the herd. In spite of being from 25 to 32 years old, their only interest in fuel economy is in whether or not energy prices will rise soon enough to make the powerful vehicles they want less expensive. While the Gen Y types I know aren’t a big sample, they are a sample of the ones that have money for new cars.

    The members of their peer group that don’t have money are driving the sort of cars that middle class kids had when I was in high school. The primary difference being that they probably got them when they were new, a decade ago. Gen Xers like me got old cars to drive when we were in high school and bought new cars when we were in our twenties. Do todays’ high school parents have the means to buy new cars on credit for teenagers? It is probably a more important question than what sort of mass market new cars working class Gen Yers want to buy.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m 28 and I live in LA with peers like the group you describe (college grads with good jobs and money to buy cars). BMWs and Audis are indeed the status symbols of choice right now. Unlike the people you know, the Audi doesn’t even have to be high-end — it just has to have the silver rings on the front and be anything above an A3.

      Benz’s are considered to be girl cars (since nobody in this group can afford an E-class yet, “Benz” = C-class), Lexus is girl car/old person car (many female peers of mine have Lexus IS’s or RX’s), and Acura isn’t even on the radar since the last-gen TL went out of production.

      Like clockwork, all of my peers went out and either leased a luxury car or bought one used as soon as they could swing it after college.

      Personally, I drove the car I had since high school until it died a few months ago, and bought a lightly used Cadillac CTS, because I really like the CTS and always have. Reactions have been very interesting. Many of my BMW-driving peers really like the car — I get compliments on it all the time. A few had even test-driven the CTS, but in so many words, said they didn’t buy one because everybody buys BMWs or Audis. It’s like they were scared to break from the herd. Whatever. Since my old car was 15 years old (though in great condition) when it died and I hadn’t replaced it with a luxury car yet, rumors had been circulating that I was somehow “poor” or “in financial trouble.” Everyone shut up when I bought the CTS. So ridiculous.

      I guess the moral of this post is the Yuppie Culture is still very much alive in Gen Y, and it hasn’t really changed much in decades. And I am stuck living in it!

      • 0 avatar

        I think this has a lot to do with the kind of friends one has and where one lives too. For example, I don’t have a single friend that drives an Audi or a BMW and I’m in the same age group. Status consciousness is more a certain % of the population thing than a generational thing I think.

      • 0 avatar

        When you say, “Good jobs,” what is the average type of salary we are talking? I am your neighbor to the south in San Diego and am also Gen Y (25) but can’t foresee a new car purchase until I am at least making $80k+. For the time being I will just buy used BMW’s I can tinker with.

      • 0 avatar


        I’d say starting salaries range from $60k to $80k+, though I don’t know for sure as nobody EVER talks about how much they make. They just imply that it’s “plenty” or “a lot” so it’s hard to tell. Lots of my peers work in finance or engineering.

        Note that these people (myself included) are either leasing new, or buying lightly used. Nobody’s buying brand-new Bimmers or Audis off the lot. With the cost of living here, that’s impossible. Heck I probably won’t buy new till I’m making over $100k!

        BTW I grew up in San Diego and Windansea is an awesome stretch of beach. Stuck in LA for work — miss SD’s mellow vibe!

      • 0 avatar

        I have to say I completely understand your peer group. And unlike the writer of this article and many commenters, I also completely understand where this research is coming from.

        I’m currently at school with a lot of engineer/math/finance types. The student parking lots are half full of luxury brands, with maybe about 10% of those being well clear of the base-line models (think C and E 63s, S4s and A7s – no m3s, sadly), and of course there are still A4 S-lines and C350s, Q5s, etc.

        Personally, I won’t be in that tax bracket, not for a while. But I definitely fancy a minimum amount of connectivity in cars (though I would never insist on a touchscreen, I too hope physical control never die). I also really like many of the new technology-driven safety features, such as blind spot warnings and adaptive cruise control. I’ll also pay for anything (provided I can) that makes my life easier, such as remote starts and keyless entry & ignition. I like my creature comforts, but I’ll probably find them first in something like a new focus or fusion. When you consider how much money so many of the students are making/will be making, it’s much easier to understand this survey.

      • 0 avatar

        I survived car shopping with Gen Y today. My friend’s buying a 2007 Tundra double cab long bed and leasing a sedan, which the jury may still be out on. We test drove a Genesis R-type, which I don’t have much good to say about. It reminded me of a K-mart pocket fishing tool, the kind that claimed to do everything a Swiss Army Knife does plus contain a scale, a ruler, and fish-scaler. Lots of features, none of them done well enough to be very convincing. The Navigation systems’ manual controls were a possible exception, but I’ve never used a system I liked. It reeked of glazed brake pads when we got out, in spite of it having been driven with less intensity than I apply to my daily commute. It also now holds the title for the biggest four door car I’ve been in where my head scrapes the headliner in the back seat. It seems to me that a lease changes the parameters of what makes a car desirable, so my friend had might as well choose some disposable European status symbol. The girls he wants to impress aren’t going to spread for a Hyundai. Even the dealer knows it, fitting almost every Genesis on the lot with what the sales manager called ‘Bentley Badges,’ which he conceded were a dealer installed option because Hyundai couldn’t get away with putting them on.

        The cars are delivered from Hyundai with the standard bent H badges, and the dealer installs the ‘Genesis’ badges as a $495 option. Hopefully, my friend will come to his senses and realize the pathetic nature of driving something that pretends to be something else. If durability isn’t an issue because of the lease, he might as well get a Jaguar XF for $599 a month or a 535i for the same price as the Genesis. Incidentally, every Genesis on the lot had all the options, so a V6 was $44,000 and an 5.0 R-type was $47,500. I’m guessing Hyundai of Orange County has less well equipped 3.8s, since their lease price is $399 while the R would be $617 a month in San Diego.

  • avatar

    I guess I’m a weird old guy even though I’m 34. I want a simple, DIY friendly car with above-average fuel economy and as little to break as possible. Which is why I drive a 2002 Golf TDI (and the wife drives a 2000 Jetta TDI). If either of our cars had a catastrophic failure, I’d likely spend the money to fix it. But if it was over about a $3-4000 repair, I’d have to start looking at new cars. Maybe I’d buy something like a Mazda 2 or 3 or try to find another used TDI that doesn’t have crazy touchscreen crap.

    It’s great that manufacturers think everyone wants lots of gadgets, but it’s just more stuff that will be quickly be obsolete and then will eventually break. I hate Apple devices and my Android phone is not a great music player. So just give me a radio with a USB port for my flash drive and I’ll be happy.

    Grandpa – out!

  • avatar

    Just to go out on limb… the marketing strategy is not as dumb as it sounds. At least not from a business perspective. How much does it cost to buy an MP3 player or a stand-alone GPS nowadays? And how much extra are we being charged to have these options added to our cars?

    Back in the 90’s, the wisdom was that bigger was safer, higher was better and that you couldn’t buy too much SUV. That kind of thinking doesn’t just happen without some kind of nurturing, and the car guys were raking it in because they were selling tarted up trucks which were cheap to produce.

    Fast forward a generation, SUV’s are dinosaurs, so where is the Gen-Y cash cow? Electronics. You’ll line up after Thanksgiving to save a few bucks on electronics, but the same kind of reasoning doesn’t seem to apply to cars. So in a way, the all singing all-Tweeting console panel is the blinged out SUV of Gen-Y. It’s an easy sell, a probably something of a cash cow until the market becomes over saturated with the stuff.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the 90′s, the wisdom was that bigger was safer, higher was better and that you couldn’t buy too much SUV. That kind of thinking doesn’t just happen without some kind of nurturing, and the car guys were raking it in because they were selling tarted up trucks which were cheap to produce.

      The desire for vehicles that were large and high-up stretches way, waaaay back in the US and until about the 80’s it was the dominant design-philosophy in cars.

      Then cars started getting smaller, plastic-y-er, and hunkering down to act like a limpet on the road. Did the Big 3 ‘nurture’ the big SUV and Truck market? You betcha, because they knew that market was there.

  • avatar

    I’d be really interested to see how the questions that produced these figures were worded.

    A couple thoughts:

    -If they were using a completely random sample, (i.e. a majority of people that don’t read or think about cars everyday) my impression is that a lot of people have very little concept of how much new cars cost if they’ve never shopped for them or haven’t shopped for one in a while.

    Someone might think that they’d spend up to 3k on technology, but still expect a car to cost 17k for example.
    When my sister, who bought a new Saturn as an 18 y.o. college freshman for $12k, was finally starting to think about replacing it 10 years later I asked her what kind of new cars she was interested in. She said she liked the looks of Audis. I asked her if she knew how much entry level Audi’s cost. “I don’t know- 20-22k maybe?”

    -When the money’s theoretical the answers don’t reflect reality.
    I drive a car that I purchased new for $19k . (2010 Mazda 3.) If someone asked me what kind of car I would have bought if I was going to spend $25k, I would answer a 2010 Mazda 3, with leather and in-dash navigation and rain sensors and… But when I am spending my own real money, there’s a lot of other things (not car related) I’d rather spend that 5-6k on than rain sensors and built in Navi. So in the real world I’m not spending that money.

    On an unrelated note, the word ‘snob’ seems to get thrown around a lot here when discussing hybrids due to the negative cost-value analysis. “Eco-snobs” I guess is what you’re implying. Can we please start calling people that spend more money on bigger engines “power-snobs” by the same cost-value standard? People like what they like, and they like what it says about them too. I don’t see the difference.

  • avatar

    ”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.”

    Well then, who needs windshields?

    What a waste of glass and resins.

  • avatar

    I’m very much liking this little series of articles from somebody who more or less shares my perspective on many issues.

    I agree that touchscreens should be killed with fire until they die from it. Operating them is a challenge even while sitting still and not going over bumpy surfaces, perhaps there’s some nascent ludditeness in me, but darn these things are aggravating. On top of that my other peeve with touchscreens…finger smudges. Those would make me pop a bolt every time I had to look at them, and cleaning them all the time isn’t very practical.

    Gimme a button, that I can jab and get feedback from, or leave me alone.

  • avatar

    I am on the cusp of X and Y as an ’83 baby. granted I’m on this website, so I have a different take, but in my late 20s most of my friends and I are in financial situations where we can afford new cars.

    Noboody seems to give a crap about touchscreen this or that. Those that have used it think it’s cool but hard to use when driving. The connectivity they want is a USB port, and Aux port, and bluetooth.

    My next car is going to be an FR-S with whatever I need to get bluetooth and not one more option. All that money I spend on nav is money I can’t spend on Bilsteins and 17x8s with Hankook RS-3s.

    CSB: My father-in-law was down with some friends for a weekend. he has an almost fully optioned Tahoe, no nav. His friends asked him why he didn’t spring the extra $2k for the nav, they all have it in their cars. He replied, “I trust maps and my own sense of direction.” He doesn’t even use maquest or the like, and I’ve never seen this guy not make it somewhere even unfamiliar places.

  • avatar

    I just sold my 15 year old Honda Accord to a Gen Y buyer under 30. He was simply happy to find a used car in decent shape for a reasonable price. He also seemed more concerned at how expensive car insurance was for people in his age group.

    I was born in the last year of the Baby Boom. I looked a hybrids, but I settled on a conventional (ICE) powertrain for my next vehicle. I did the calculations and figured out that I would not break even on recovering the price premium of a hybrid from the gas savings for another 10+ years. Why wouldn’t members of any other generation follow a similar strategy: wait for battery technology to improve, and then jump in and buy a hybrid vehicle several years later when prices come down?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a question of values. If you dislike oil wars and environmental destruction, then spending a few dollars to reduce them ever so slightly looks pretty good. Especially if you end up with a super reliable and practical little car in the process. Not only that, but you can feel slightly better about not going car free.

      Values: Not just for conservative hypocrites, anymore. Liberal hypocrites got ’em too.

      (This assumes that the hybrid gets better gas mileage, as the Prius does (compared to the Matrix). I have no f’ing idea why anyone buys a Tahoe Hybrid. My wife and I saw one the other day and she pointed out that the word “hybrid” on the door was almost as long as our car.)

  • avatar

    The social media thing is over-hyped. Members of Gen Y are too busy working, exercising, drinking, and playing video games to dedicate large amounts of time to Twitter and Facebook. I am at the tail end of Gen Y and I work in a very tech-centric industry. I don’t have a single friend, co-worker, or remote acquaintance who has a Twitter account. Not one. The only people I know with Twitter accounts are celebrities, politicians, Arab rebels, and companies who are attempting to appeal to Gen Y because they seem to think that they care about Twitter.

    Most of us update Facebook a couple of times a week and that’s the extent of our social media interaction. You know who uses Facebook more than anyone? My bored grandmother and unemployed uncle. If I had a dime for every request I received from my grandmother to play Facebook Family Feud I could buy her a fleet of social media enabled hybrids. They should start putting these systems in Buicks and Cadillacs – that way Grandma can tweet about dominating her bridge games and crushing pickle-ball matches while driving 10mph under the speed limit and weaving in and out of her lane.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree — I’m 33 (no idea WTF generation that makes me), and my son’s great grandmother spends a lot more time on Facebook than any of us. My mom more time on Facebook than I do. Facebook’s main purpose is to disseminate baby pictures to the grandmothers, great grandmothers, my cousins, and to any of my friends from high school / college who care what I’ve been up to the last decade or so.

      People who have time are the people who spend hours and hours on Facebook. Speaking of time, it’s back to my grad school homework so that I can get to bed in time for work tomorrow. I was on baby-duty for half the evening, and now it’s the wife’s turn. But that’s not to say that I don’t value Facebook, but it is what it is — it’s a way to tell a bunch of people may or may not care what you’ve been up to. The (great) grandmothers and my cousins usually care, and have the time/motivation to keep checking up on people and chatting. Sounds just like life before Facebook, but now we do it better.

  • avatar

    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.

    Especially when you can get a new head unit that does that, installed, for under $300 (link representative, not an endorsement)… at least in cars that take a DIN receiver.

    • 0 avatar

      This is less easy if your car uses some bizarre dash layout, especially when they put a screen somewhere other than on the radio, or if they integrate the stereo with the climate controls.

      When the kids say they want to customize their car, what they mean is make the damn radio a standard size and shape. I’m pretty sure this costs less, not more.

      If you must throw some swoopy dash styling in there to camouflage the squareness of it all, go for it I guess, but leave the radio DIN or double-din under that, and don’t mix it with the other control systems or vice versa. When your fancy in dash navitainment system is broken or obsolete is a few years, I’l like to be able to swing by Best Buy and get an upgrade.

  • avatar

    How significant is the shopper’s age in the car industry? I’m on the older end of Gen Y (I think), and my peers don’t seem different from those in other age groups. Most people want a reliable and efficient sedan, some want big trucks, others cars that are good for going skiing with, some are into design, and a few of us like sports cars. Heck, I even know Buick fans under 30 (those who drove their parents’ Buicks as their first car).

    The only age effect I can think is that Baby Boomers and Gen X are more likely to be parents, so they buy more practical cars. (Gen Y’s getting there.) But Millenials and retirees have fewer requirements and more freedom to get whatever they think is cool. They also have less money than those in the middle. It’s no wonder they sometimes buy the same cars.

    No, wait, I can think of one more age effect. Younger people started driving in the age of greater traffic, more expensive traffic citations, and a very strong stigma against street racing. For old car execs it seems to be a matter of pride to say they street raced in the ‘60s, but young people have to hide the fact that they wish they were doing the same. I bet that has an effect on the enthusiast population, and maybe it’s part of what killed the coupe market in the early ‘00s. But there were never that many enthusiasts to begin with. It’s a small niche that can’t afford the cars it likes unless used, so it shouldn’t have much of an effect on auto marketing anyway.

  • avatar

    Oh to be young again. As a male in his 40s, I feel every marking dollar targeted to my demographic group is for erectile dysfunction. I’m curious what other Gen X’ers think about technology in their car. All I’m looking for is good Bluetooth connectivity.

  • avatar

    Don’t ask me I’m barely under 60. But I just want connectivity to the road. Visually, with big windows and no bright, eye-grabbing bling on the dash. By feel, with controls that are simple & stable in form and function, workable without eye contact. Since I don’t expect those kind of cars to me made anymore, I’m stocking up on 2000-2005 vehicles, such as the 2003 Audi Allroad I just purchased. It has everything a driver needs and no more.

    If I want navigation, email and other distracting delights, I’ll still have my iPhone. It sits out of the way in my pocket until I need it. If it becomes obsolete, I buy another phone, not another car…

  • avatar

    You know, this thread shows you that TTAC is something very special in the world of ‘auto-blogs’. And in all fairness, the things that he heap on Gen-Y are all of the things that our parents heaped on us. You can move out of their house, but you can’t escape your parents’ shadows.

  • avatar

    In the ’60s, a busty young woman told kids to “join the Dodge rebellion” featuring 2-door models with optional engines, 4-barrel carbs, floor shifters and bucket seats. At night, Dodge sponsored the Lawrence Welk Show, advertising the same models with 4-doors, slant-sixes, torqueflites and bench seats. Why are automakers trying to build a special model or brand for one demographic, when an intelligent options list can satisfy everybody? Are automakers now determined, like K. T. Keller in the ’50s, to eliminate special orders, and crank out one-size-fits-all?

  • avatar

    Quintessential Baby Boomer here.

    1957= peak Baby Boom year… maximum number of vile spawn depart the womb.

    Me… prior year.

    Early Boomers received the most media attention back then to the present.

    Thus, the addition by some demographers of “Generation Jones.”

    Look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls. Or Wikipedia.

    I concur with the reasoning for the sub-set of the Boomer Bunch… and few I knew were anything close to being the Brady Bunch.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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. ;)

  • avatar

    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.

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