By on January 10, 2012

Back in September, I attended the launch of the Chevrolet Sonic for another outlet. Despite GM’s insistence that the Sonic was being marketed at “millenials”, I was the sole member of the press that fit that demographic. Despite the cheesy, ham-handed attempt at being in touch with the demographic (a parking garage festooned with contrived, faux-urban graffiti, for example), the Sonic left a favorable impression. It is an honest, practical, fun to drive car that is affordable for young people – well, some of them.

Although I have a full-time gig with salary and benefits, I am in the distinct minority among my peer group. Most of us should have had a relatively trouble-free path to maintaining the middle class (or upper-middle class) lifestyles we were born into. All of us have some form of post-secondary education or have a learnt a trade, but few of us have stable, full-time jobs. Most of my friends who graduated from good schools with 4-year degrees are stuck working contract jobs with no benefits and little promise of stability.I would need both hands to count the number of friends who have been let go this year. Many are stuck working unpaid internships in the hopes that it may lead to a contract gig. Renting overpriced apartments in gentrified neighborhoods seems to be the future. Tight credit, low wages and high real estate prices in urban centers makes home ownership seem as distant as winning the Powerball.

If rent and rising food prices weren’t enough, gas, insurance and parking are just added expenses on top of the rising cost of living. In short, buying any is just not on the radar for a lot of people in my demographic. Chevrolet seems hell bent on becoming the brand of choice for Gen Y, and their new concepts, given the silly monikers of Code 130R and Tru 140S (which look more like inebriated SMS typos than vehicle names) are their latest salvo.

Chevrolet said that they consulted with countless members of Gen Y to find out what they want in a car. Although various outlets have taken Chevy to task for not creating a diesel, 6-speed manual turbocharged rear drive compact that gets 50 mpg, looks like an Audi R8 and costs $10,000, these concepts are probably a step in the right direction. They are efficient and although they may not be particularly fast, they are unique looking in an attractive way, rather than in a bizarre, Hyundai Veloster manner. The concepts may look derivative or even silly to us, but to the average consumer in their 20’s, they don’t look like a subcompact hatch or (worse) a bell-shaped subcompact sedan, and this is a victory in itself.

Don’t let web pundits fool you either; most young people don’t give a rats ass about speed beyond if it feels quick when judging by the seat of their pants – gas is expensive, street racing carries much stiffer penalties than the post WWII boomer days, and if anyone really wants a performance car, they’ll probably buy something used. It’s not that the car has to drive poorly, just that 0-60 times and lateral g’s are way down the list for a lot of people who haven’t been actively following the development process of the Scion FR-S (read: 99% of the population).

Despite all of GM’s efforts, the big problems for the future remain structural. More and more young people don’t even have their driver’s licenses (speaking anecdotally this seems to be a female trend. My girlfriend and many of her friends don’t have their drivers licenses. The boyfriends do the driving), and the precarious economic situation of young people, combined with the allure of a used car from a prestigious brand makes the idea of a new car less and less appealing.

At this point, you’re probably looking to see what my conclusion is regarding Gen Y, the future of Chevrolet as a brand and where cars will be going. Honestly, I don’t have one. I’ve been alive for a shorter period of time than many of you have had driver’s licenses, and there are too many external factors that will determine the above. If gas prices go up, or we approach Spainish levels of youth unemployment – or both – then Chevrolet’s problems are going to be far greater than “how can we get young people to identify with our brand.”  If I knew the answer to these, I’d probably be off somewhere else making a lot more money and doing a lot more societal good. As it is, I am but a mere automotive blogger, with a loyal and intelligent readership, a 15 year old Mazda and a rewarding job that offers a steady income. I am blessed, even if the prospect of owning my first new car seems very far off.

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54 Comments on “NAIAS: Chevrolet’s Concepts, From The Eyes Of Gen Y...”

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    As someone who is nearly twice Derek’s age, I hereby nominate him to be the voice of Gen Y for the time being (until he gets too old of course). Your assessment of the harsh Gen-Y economic realities throughout your post are revealingly honest and I wish more people running around trying to figure how to market to your generation would put you on their speed-dial list. I look forward to reading your writing more and more going forward here-nicely done Sir.
    Now as for the Chevrolet concepts themselves, I can count on one hand the under-30 crowd I know personally that own, or even want a 2-door sporty car. Most seem to want small SUVs, hatchbacks, four-doors and even mini-vans etc. Vehicles that let them get the most ‘stuff’ and people to go along with them and they seem much more interested in taking as many friends possible along with them much more so than being seen in a sports car. Both Chevrolet concepts seem to be the ‘young person’s dream’ of a 50+ exec who longs for the pony-car days..small, sporty and 2+2s. Doesn’t seem very Gen-Y to me but they say they talked to thousands of Gen-Y folks so I could be wrong…I’d love to read here what more folks in Derek’s generation honestly think of these two Chevrolet concepts.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure how one gets too old for their own generation. Time-travel perhaps? :p

      Incidentally the pictured concept looks a great deal like the Peugeot RCZ. No bad thing IMHO.

      • 0 avatar

        OK – since you guys started…
        My name is VanillaDude.
        I am a car nut.
        I have always been financially struggling, but today I have gotten to a point where I am struggling middle class adult male.

        I struggled right away. I lived in a trailer without utilities while attending school. I borrowed friends’ cars. I rode a bike. I showered at the university gym. I ate ramen and these pizzas that cost less than a dollar. I attended parties so I could get beer. I bummed weed from strangers. I hitched rides if I could find enough cash to rent skis. My aunt washed my clothes out of pity. I never got paid for sex, but that was OK, because you know, it was sex and I never charged, but sometimes should have. I got my degrees by taking out loans and not doing something stupid like getting a degree in magic.

        I found a job that offered me a vehicle. I was an Orkin man, so I got a free Orkin uniform, a tank of poison, a schedule and a white Ford Ranger. I spent the day spraying two kinds of houses – McMansions with cold, selfish, anally rententive housewives and no vermin, and filthy rat holes. I felt I wasted my time in the McMansions and didn’t have enough ammo in the rat holes. Worse was when the rat holes were filled with unwashed toddlers. This is sadly common, btw. Walmart shoppers actually try to look decent.

        Then I got married and we now have two incomes and a slew of kids. And a house. And cars. And bills. And – you know the rest. To outsiders, we’re living the dream! WooHoo! But my buddies and I know the truth – we are still struggling. We’re still struggling. We have credit cards for the beer and cigars, thats all.

        Marketers are salespeople with college degrees that are too lazy to do sales. Instead of selling, they create virtual worlds supposedly filled with their intended customers. Chevrolet is doing this with their Generation Y outreach. They are falling for their marketer’s virtual world. So, naturally, they are missing the bull’s eye here.

        Young people are not rich, but may know rich people. Some rich people help them out with travel costs, such as cars. People who can buy cars for others, aren’t giving their wallets away. What looks stylish, or especially good to a young person isn’t the deciding factor in any auto purchases. Price, dependability, and practicality is.

        Chevy is a player in this market, due to price. They will finance a family pet with a 600 month auto loan if Fifi can bark once when the salesman asks, “Do you want this Sonic Fifi? Do ya? Do ya good girl? C’Mon! Do ya!” Dogs like the bow tie brand. And Alpo.

        But Chevy is not a player in this market due to it’s lack of quality and dependability – combined with low price. A small Chevy is historically a disposable car. In times like these, regardless of the generation, you don’t buy a small disposable car from Chevrolet.

        So while Chevy may appeal to Fifi – it does not appeal to Generation Y. OK, Chevy – that will cost you, what do you pay those marketers, $5,000?

        Or sex.

  • avatar

    Interesting perspective, Derek.

    A couple years ago, I found myself sitting in a quiet conference room at Mitsubishi’s North American headquarters having a chat with some PR/Product folks. Of the three people I spoke with, two were enthusiasts like me. We got to talking about the DSM, the VR4s, the never-registered Evo VI TME they keep around for special occasions, and how the more recent models seemed to be missing something.

    The product guy – who used to be at Super Street (lest you think I’m referencing a clueless suit, here) – asked me a question I’ll never forget. He said, “If the price of gas was double what it is today, would you still have your Galant VR4? How often would you drive it?”

    Like you, I’ve questioned the pursuit of new models. We love them, but the last 30 years have seen them commoditized to little more than expensive appliances. I think (hope) we’ll start seeing them viewed more like the major financial decisions they are in coming years.

    Your 15-year old Miata and my 20-year old Galant are paid-off and simple enough we’ll be able to keep them running until they’re made illegal. Gen-Y (you), Gen-X (me), and anyone else who cares about cars or enjoys driving will eventually have to decide between the car payment and fuel.

    Until then, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

  • avatar
    Twitter: phauser

    I’m right in the middle of the demographic you’re speaking of, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a car that looks like something it’s not. If it looks fast, it should be fast. Random Facebook post from a early 20-something female professional:

    “I was looking at the hyundai elantra & sonata, and the kia optima. The buick verano is pretty sweet too.”

    The inclusion of the Buick is surprising to me, but the other ones are right in line with what I’d expect from most people. Modern styling, practical, not too flashy. The C and D segment volume sellers are probably the same as other demographics. Unless you’re of the country persuasion, then it’s just a race to the biggest and most powerful truck/suv you can afford (on credit). I have the heart of a TTAC reader, but my head keeps me in a paid for ’05 Pontoyota Vibatrix. An FR-S would be tasty, but only if I had a garage. I would feel dirty leaving it out through a Pittsburgh winter.

  • avatar

    What exactly does the term Millennial mean? Are we talking early teens-early twenties?

    Even when times were good, this age group was very pretty rarely buying new cars. I mean my social network is a bunch of upper-middle class/just plain rich Republican kids who were in their early twenties when banks were begging you to let them loan you money. Even they weren’t zipping around in new cars, and if they were, it was their parents who bought the thing.

    Really don’t these constant attempts to market to a group that is SUPPOSED to be broke confuses the hell out of me. Did no one learn from Scion? Your youth brand will be bought by thrifty old people. You might have a ton of teens who want your Sonic, but hell, I desperately wanted a PT Cruiser when I was a teen. It didn’t do Chrysler a damn bit of good when I actually bought a new car for the first time.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps the “youth” marketing is really intendednfor thrifty/quirky old people? This kind of thing would appeal to my mom, if her F-150 weren’t such a good fit for her purposes (and if she were a little less focused on her post-retirement career).

      That might explain why the marketing people “missed” the authenticity that Derek was looking for (and that I would have been looking for, too). In the other hand, this kind or marketing usually comes across as shallow and condescending my experience, so they this might just be formulaic and not so clever.

      • 0 avatar

        +1 toxicroach. I remember thinking to myself as a person of interest to the Scion brand, WTF? They’re actually LOOKING for unemployed a-holes like myself living in their mother’s basements to come in and try on a brand new Scion? Later I noticed more and more older aged men tooling around in the Xb and Tc and realized that the marketed generation (Boomers) absolutely picked up on the IMAGE of the Scion. None of them were young, unemployed ‘rebels’ but they’d be damned if they didn’t buy trying.

  • avatar

    There’s one thing that Chevrolet needs more than anything else, and that is to stop making absurdly large front grilles. I’m pretty sure that in most countries in the world, a front license plate is required, yet Chevrolet still seems to make designs meant for USA, so everywhere else you need to put the license plate right on top of the grill, which looks ugly. And oversized mouths like in those concepts are ugly to begin with. If their concepts already have issues, then Chevrolet is in big trouble.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, not all states go without a front license plate, plenty of them have to have one, including where I live (Washington State).

      It simply mounts to the bumper that splits the grill, usually.

  • avatar

    Oh please, the whining of kids these days. I too was underemployed in my 20s, my career did not really get going until my early 30s, now in my early 40s I am doing pretty well. Same with all of my same age friends – expect half of them are more “getting by” than doing well. Very few of us have EVER bought a new car, and I have only bought three, two of them in the past three years, one when I was 31 (and it was effectively a company car). Nothing new under the sun, other than the incessant complaining about it.

    I do have to agree, for the most part the young people I know don’t really care about cars or driving. A means to an end, and I live in Maine where public transport is pretty much non-existant. So I don’t see what the point is of marketing to people with no money.

    • 0 avatar

      Can’t expect kids to have any recollection let alone appreciation of the hard times of 20 or 30 years ago.

      But you can’t expect them not to remember the incredible fat time they grew up in just in time to see collapse, either.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the point is getting muddled here. It’s not that owning a new car is a stretch for many young people. Owning a car period, new or used, is a serious financial obligation when you are young and without serious employment prospects, or none at all. This isn’t some entitled whinging from a narcissistic young person.

      • 0 avatar

        I didn’t realize how much had changed for this young generation until I got to know my niece better as she became an adult. She is about to turn 18 with no license or car. My brother is somewhere between middle and upper middle, wife doesn’t work and they have two newer vehicles. Yet she doesn’t seem concerned with the fact that she doesn’t know when she’s getting a car and doesn’t have a license. When I ask her about why she says she doesn’t have a job so how could she pay for it? I am 30, when I turned 16 I dragged my mom with me to get my license. I worked at a fast food joint and had a beater car before 17. It was a must to get that freedom and unthinkable not to have a car. Kids now seem a lot more practical and while she’ll get help buying her first car, she’ll be responsible for the rest. I’ve been lucky enough not to feel this recession, it’s hard to imagine how it’s shaping the new generation.

    • 0 avatar

      To an extent you have a point. I am in my late 30’s and I get tired of listening to the kids in their early 20’s complain about how tough they have it. The difference in my opinion with the younger kids is their narcissism. Everything from Twitter to Facebook to texting to blogs has created an interesting dynamic where these kids believe that EVERYTHING they write is important, interesting, relevant and, most important, fact. This narcissism causes these kids to believe that what they are experiencing is unique to their situation and they are important because of it.
      This is the dynamic businesses must work with; whether these kids are employees or customers.
      Now, don’t misunderstand I am not making judgement on this behavior I am just trying to describe how the young kids view the world.

      The economics, on the other hand, of today are out of balance. Have you looked at the cost of college, for example, over the past 15 years? The increase in the cost of college is obscene and absurd to the point where it has effectively locked out everyone. I earned my Mechanical Engineering degree from a very well known and respected public university only 15 years ago. Today, the cost of that SAME education has increased 200+%. Tuition was $3500/year is now over $12000! That is obscene and is the reality that the young kids live in TODAY!
      These costs are forcing families to take out what is in effect a mortgage to educate one kid. College education cost is the next bubble to burst.
      Rent in the city centers is very expensive. Food is expensive. Evenings at the bar is expensive. There is nothing left for a car payment, parking, insurance and fuel.
      Also, the labor market is very tough unless you have a solid trade skill or a technical education like accounting or engineering. I feel bad, and sorry, for the kid who graduates from State U with a psychology degree because the next 5-8 years are going to be tough, financially.
      But, this situation is not unique to the 20 somethings. We have daycare to pay for which equals the cost of college education. We have houses that are worth only 70% of when we bought them. The Boomers are being selfish and working longer which is stunting our career growth. The list goes on and one.

      Add on top of all this, and this is Derek’s point I think, these young kids, generally, don’t give a shit about what car they drive. Read that again, they don’t give a shit. If anything they hold with contempt new cars.
      THAT is the paradigm shift! They don’t give a shit. The phone they have in their hands is infinitely more important than some badge on the hood of the car or how much power said car has. The car, to them, represents being contained, and constrained, by “the man” with car payments, insurance payments, fuel, maintenance, parking, the inevitable tax from parking tickets and arbitrary “speed” citations which conspire to raise insurance premiums. In some states cars are even taxed as property just like a house!!!!!!
      I love cars but to be honest their view of the car is remarkably refreshing!!!

      The auto business is in business to sell cars to the Boomers. That is all. Everything else is just limp service and propaganda. When the Boomers stop buying, which is in the beginning stages, the industry in is serious trouble because for too long it has resisted change. Yet another reason why the industry we follow and as we know it today is doomed to collapse.

  • avatar

    Your ‘needs’ grow as your income grows.
    When I was poor I just wanted a car.
    When I had a job, I just wanted a quality car that didn’t break and cost me repairs bills all the time.
    Then I need a V6 and leather.
    Now I need a AWD luxury sportscar.

    Generation Y has little money. I think they want Scion TCs that don’t look like old guy cars.

    It takes much too long to get anywhere on the bus.

    • 0 avatar

      The buses are surprisingly good in my town. The fact that I can take the bus when my car breaks down means that I don’t have to stress over cars the way I did when I lived in a car-dependent place. It’s quite liberating to be relieved of car-stress.

  • avatar

    Wow. I thought I might’ve written this article myself until I realized: A) My name wasn’t on the title. and B) I temporarily came to from a neo-malaise half-drunken stupor and noticed, well, i’m not an editor at TTAC, I FIX and MAINTAIN the cars the automotive press writes about. (Acuras specifically)

    Spot on on the generational aspect (PS, i’m 28). My fiance also does not drive, she used to, but realized she couldn’t without crashing into shit all the time, so I know where you’re coming from there.

    I would be considered ‘the 1%’ by some nowadays. Owning two cars and an 1100 sq. ft. townhouse makes me bourgeoisie compared to many ‘our (I think)’ age; I can also count on both my hands and feet how many people I know ‘let go’, underemployed, or homeless at the moment.

    Keep up the generational angle, many will listen. And not just Generation ‘Why’.

    When my father was about my age he special ordered a ’73 Rally Nova, red with stripes, 350 with a 3 spd Muncie. What about the fact credit is hard to come by now (even if you have a job) does the ol’ General not understand? I smell a gigantic epic FLOP with the Code 130R and Tru 140S should they be put into production.

    Quite frankly i’d rather have a used 1-series or TSX first. At least I KNOW those are good cars.

    I’ll keep reading your articles. They make a lot of sense.

  • avatar

    I’m getting a little lost as to who’s who and what’s what, but this Millenial says they both kind of suck. The silver one could look good if they dropped the shoulders and gave it a functional back window, but this is Detroit- they wouldn’t dare make something more functional than the Koreans.
    Edit to add: Please don’t tell me you find that red monstrosity attractive in any way, shape or form.

  • avatar

    This age group is pretty savvy about what matters and why. As the grandfather of an 18-year old girl who just got her very first brand new car, I can tell you that it was all about likes.

    My grand daughter could have chosen any car or truck she wanted as her HS grad gift and she took her time looking around, with three of her girl friends in tow.

    They went to all the local dealerships and more in El Paso and Las Cruces, NM, and looked at everything from the Fit to the Sonic and the Fiesta.

    What was the coolest had-to-have look-at-me car? The 2011 Hyundai Elantra! It had a killer sound system standard, was a blast to drive and real easy on the gas for a girl with a lead foot.

    Don’t underestimate these youngsters. They know value when they see it. Maybe Chevy should take a page out of this Hyundai book of value.

    • 0 avatar

      Only rich kids got clnew vars as high school graduation presents (or at all) when I was in HS in the late 1990s. I’m even more surprised to hear about it now. Glad to hear your granddaughter has an eye for value, though.

      (New cars were rare as college graduation preelsents among my friends, too. We were mostly engineers, and a lot are 1st generation college grads. And rural Virginia is likely more affluent then rural New Mexico?)

  • avatar

    this dovetails back into the age old “iphones vs. cars” battle

    owning a car is a financial burden… you are under constant assault from the police, govt. authority, the banks, big oil, repairs, dealers etc.

    and this is in free western societies largely outside of the EU!

    if the golden age of the car was the 50s/60s then it is reasonable to assume we are seeing the decline

    but saying that Ford and GM are still making big dollars so the draw is still there overall

    i would think that the push into sub $10k cheap cars for india and china which used to be ONLY for developing countries would also be suitable for the developed western world too due to prevailing economic conditions.

    India is driving Nanos and we drive… the EU/US spec Nano?

    • 0 avatar

      “owning a car is a financial burden… you are under constant assault from the police, govt. authority, the banks, big oil, repairs, dealers etc.”

      You are spot on! As a certified car nut myself I question the wisdom of owning my “dream ride” every day. If I question it then the people who don’t give a shit really, well, don’t give a shit.
      Cars have, in fact, become a burden and that is why the industry will collapse.

  • avatar

    Hey, ALL 20 somethings go through this period of low paying jobs, bad cars or decent, but older cars for a period and those who get new ones while very young are the exception, rather than the rule.

    I’m going to be 47 tomorrow and still don’t make much, I don’t even make enough to easily and comfortably cover expenses and rent most months and drive a barely 20 YO Ranger truck that is now nearly the end of life at over 236K miles on the clock but still runs fine otherwise – but for how long though.

    I’ve never had a newer or new car in my life, nor ever bought a home and yes, the economy now stinks, and has since 2008 when the bubble burst and I’ve lived through other downturns where the young, and the recent graduate had a hard time finding work (the early 1990’s were similar – and they had Desert Storm to deal with) and then we had the Dot Com bust and 9/11 to be the buzz kills of the last decade before the economy recovered, only to last a few scant years before the housing bubble burst, crashing the economy back to earth again.

    So some of this isn’t new, but the priorities of many of the young are different now, that’s for sure.

    But I wonder if abandoning the car all together is really a good idea since not everyone can utilize public transportation since not all communities have it, or if they do, is it any good.

    And even if you have good public transportation, whether it’s convenient for you or not largely depends on where you live in relation to where you work.

    Here in Seattle, downtown Seattle is the hub of our bus/train system and for many who live in many neighborhoods, you HAVE to bus into downtown in order to get to the East Side, such as Bellevue and that may be more of an inconvenience than anything due to how long it takes to GET to work (and back home).

    At the end of the day, you have to weigh the pro’s and con’s of owning and driving or not when it comes to getting around outside of your neighborhood.

    Some day, I’m going to buy new and it won’t be big or with a big motor, but it WILL be a hatchback and it WILL have a manual and WILL be fun to drive – and thrifty on fuel.

    Gas prices may well get expensive, but when you drive a small, fuel efficient car, that will mitigate much of the expenses for gas – and use public transportation for your daily commute into work and back home is where I think the new transportation paradigm will come in the future.

  • avatar

    Actually what you usually sacrifice when maximizing 0-60 times for as little money as possible is not handling, it’s quietness, and ride quality. Many cars that are quick and cheap are often very noisy and harsh riding. I guess you just have to pay up if you want quickness while preserving your hearing and kidney function. That, or go slow until you can afford a better ride.

  • avatar

    back when Scion was in its infancy, I was in its target demographic: 20 something, urban dweller, good job.

    Most of my friends and I chose not to have cars: living in the NYC metro area you don’t necessarily need a car, and the cost of parking can easily be more than your car payment!

    among the few of us that did drive, there was a tie in the popularity contest: Toyota Matrix (AWD automatics) and Mini Cooper (convertible Turbo manuals). We mostly viewed Scion as a cruel joke after the xB was ruined, despite the great parties they sponsored.

    When I did borrow a car, it was my parents’ Jeep Wrangler, and everyone LOVED it (even some of the greenies!). However, because of the terrible fuel economy, they would never buy one.

  • avatar

    Nice insights, Derek.

    I seem to recall that decades ago, some GM honcho explained why they wouldn’t make a Beetle competitor: “Americans who need cheap cars should just buy a good used vehicle” (or something like that). It’s a much-mocked statement, a perfect example of why GM got their lunch eaten.

    But now I wonder. Used cars are so much better than ever before, and a slightly depreciated used car still offers significant savings over the new-car purchase price. So while I think there will be a market for stripped-down economy cars for a while (people who truly need basic reliable transportation will always exist), I bet that those with slightly more ambitious needs/budgets will spend their money on a used Lexus or BMW instead of vehicles like these Chevy concepts.

    Oh, and that red one looks like a deformed bit of the male anatomy. The conceptual heir the Camaro doesn’t have to look like a retro Camaro, but it shouldn’t look like a disease, either.

  • avatar

    I find this article and the comments very interesting. I figured I’d offer my perspective.

    I’m halfway between 20 and 30, college educated, and gainfully employed in a strong industry. Unfortunately, this is not the case for a lot of the people in my age group. Oddly enough, I have one of the lower quality cars of all my friends even though I make the most money by quite a bit. Most seem to run off and lease the most expensive thing they can afford or take the plunge on a used German prestige brand financed over 6 years. I can think of a couple who have really gotten bit on the ass because of this.

    After seeing my two older brothers get in financial trouble I didn’t want to make the same mistake. I financed an economy CPO car for 4 years and paid it off in 3. I’d love to have something turbocharged and fun but the insurance premiums just aren’t worth it right now. I’d rather put that money in my IRA and 401k. I’m still young. Hopefully there’s plenty of time left to get a fun car.

    The problem is, a lot of my generation doesn’t want a new economy car. They want the prestigious name and visual cachet of driving that BMW/Audi/Benz regardless of the financial toll. Car makers can attempt to appeal to younger buyers all day long but if BMW keeps offering a 3 Series lease for $390 a month they’re going to win the battle.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you nailed it. For those Gen Yers who actually want/need a car, they would take a used 3 series/A4/C Class over a new Chevy anything.

      Maybe Chevy needs to stick to trucks, family sedans and Corvettes, and Cadillac should develop a killer CTS/ATS CPO program targeted at millenials.

      • 0 avatar

        Geesvt, you nailed it, but I didn’t want to get too far into that tangent. I have had countless friends ask about buying used 3-Series and the like when they could afford a new subcompact – but nothing more.

        And yes I’m waiting for the Toronto real estate bubble to burst, because fuck paying $250,000 for a 400-500 sq foot “condo” aka studio with $800 a month in fees.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re doing it right.
      Keep your paid off car, and if you want a fun car some day, go buy something used, and pay for it in cash. Don’t borrow money for toys.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought my first new car at 27, an Elantra, making as much or more than my friends who were financing G37s, BMW 3s, Caddys and new 4Runners… A couple of them have barely hung on to those vehicles over the last few years, a couple others just stay in a newer prestige brand. They like to joke about the Hyundai but many say they wish they’d just saved the money and bought a car like mine. My generation (around 30) seems to be stuck in the boom mindset we came of age in.

      • 0 avatar

        Just for a different perspective from the original 2 posters, none of my friends in this age range buy prestigious named used cars. They all buy new economy cars.
        Most economy cars these days have as many bells and whistles as premium cars from ten years ago.

        The reason for this is the hassle factor. People don’t want to deal with maintenance, they need reliability to get them to work eveyday.
        It’s the laptop mindest. You just want a fresh start with something that’s going to not be too buggy.

        It probably has a lot to do with where you live and what industry you are in. The “wannabe” stigma of buying a used luxury car is greater than the “sheeple” stigma of buying a new base Civic for my peers.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know if I just have the car insurance deal of a lifetime but my insurance premiums went up by 30 bucks a year when I went from a Honda Fit to a sports sedan. Once you get past that magic age of 25 I don’t know how much the car matters. It’s the driver they are really worried about.

      • 0 avatar

        I pay $80/month for my Miata…a 1994 Civic could would be $250 a month. I have no tickets or accidents.

      • 0 avatar

        I hit 25 this year and my insurance only went down about $25 a year. I tested the waters on a GTI and WRX and both were nearing the $200 a month mark. That’s a steep increase from the $70/month I pay now.

        I spoke with my agent and he said it’s about 60/40 split. 60 being the car and 40 the driver. He said being young, single, having decent income, and wanting a small car with 200hp+ is a recipe for high insurance.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s weird. I have the maximum coverage they sell and a 1 million in umbrella coverage for me and my wife… it’s $110 a month for both of us.

      • 0 avatar

        A lot of it has to do with where you live too. When I moved from Ohio to Michigan my insurance practically doubled. (That might be unique to Michigan though.)

      • 0 avatar

        State of registration has a lot to do with it. My brother moved from Ohio to Michigan and experienced the same thing. He was told it was because Michigan is a no fault state.

      • 0 avatar

        I live in Michigan. I used to think that the primary factors, other than driving record, on rates were vehicle price and whether its a hot-rod. However, my insurance actually went DOWN when I went from a BMW E36 into a significantly more expensive M-B C32 AMG (a performance car). My insurance agent explained that the primary factor is actually SAFETY. He said “It’s more expensive to repair a human than a car.”, and the Merc was full of airbags and crumple zones.

  • avatar

    (small) good news for gen Y in Toronto: all real estate bubbles eventually burst. Bad news: I’ve no idea when that will happen.

  • avatar

    Another Gen Y type offering my perspective: I graduated about 20 months ago and work at a tech comapny where the average age is 25 and salaries are generally in the 80s. When I walk through our parking garage, the trends are obvious: about a fifth of the company drives whatever their parents gave them, usually a Camry or Accord but even besides that the vast majority drive an Accord, a Prius, an Altima, or a Civic in roughly that order. There’s a sizable population of Golfs- it’s the car to have if your cool. The premium segment is overwhelmingly Acuras, mainly older TLs or brand-new TSXs, but there are a handful of 328xis and A3s or A4s. The enthusiasts (and we have enough that there’s a company AutoX club) drive almost exclusively old miatas, last-gen WRXs, or new GTIs/

    Personally I quite like Chevy’s Camaro x 1-Series concept, but I just don’t think plays with my demographic. At least here Gen Y kids with the money to spend on a new car seem to prioritize reliability, technology, and environmental friendliness (maybe Acura is on to something after all). The two things you almost never see in the parking garage are RWD anything and stick-shifts.

  • avatar

    Another Gen Y type offering my perspective: I graduated about 20 months ago and work at a tech company where the average age is 25 and salaries are generally in the 80s. When I walk through our parking garage, the trends are obvious: about a fifth of the company drives whatever their parents gave them, usually a Camry or Accord but even besides that the vast majority drive an Accord, a Prius, an Altima, or a Civic in roughly that order. There’s a sizable population of Golfs- it’s the car to have if you’re cool. The premium segment is overwhelmingly Acuras, mainly older TLs or brand-new TSXs, but there are a handful of 328xis and A3s or A4s. The enthusiasts (and we have enough that there’s a company AutoX club) drive almost exclusively old Miatas, last-gen WRX sedans, or new GTIs.

    Personally I quite like Chevy’s Camaro x 1-Series concept, but I just don’t think it plays with my demographic. At least here Gen Y kids with the money to spend on a new car seem to prioritize reliability, technology, and environmental friendliness (maybe Acura is on to something after all). The two things you almost never see in the parking garage are RWD anything and stick-shifts.

  • avatar

    I’m at the upper end of this age demographic (30)- I’ll pile on with my own gratuitous auto-biography.

    I’m not sure if I could be called an ‘enthusiast,’ but I like cars enough to read this site daily, and I have a white-collar job in the auto industry. I’m more of a design and business person than a nuts and bolts person.

    I have a newish car, that I bought new as a keeper (10 years hopefully).
    I (despite being 6’4”) buy C class cars, only high enough of a grade to get a remote key dongle to unlock the doors. With a supplier discount I paid under 20k for it. My other car is basically the same car just 5 years older and paid off (5 more years of smooth running hopefully).

    We are saving now to move from an apartment to a (well below market average price) house. The price difference between my Mazda 3 and something like a TSX wagon, or a Ford flex (which my wife actually likes), is basically financially impossible for me at this point if I’m being realistic. Even if it was, that money could be put to better uses. I would much rather use the savings to travel occasionally, enjoy better restaurants, etc… In the end of the day, despite liking cars in theory, they are just appliances for me. (I drive Mazdas because I prefer the handling- that’s about the extent of my enthusiasm.)

    Despite my interest in cars, I would love nothing more than having the freedom to not own them. I can’t justify the amount of my take-home pay that goes into feeding them. The only reason I do is because my office is in an suburban office-park. I walk and or ride a bike to work 50% of the time because I found an apartment very close to my office. I am the only person at my office that does this. I would drop one car, but we are expecting, and once we have kids I’m going to have to pick them up- drop them off, etc. and I don’t know if when we buy a house it will be allow an accessible route to my work by anything other than car.

    I would love nothing more than to live in a walk-able area, and have access to one of those car sharing services for weekend trip/shopping. Most of my friends either do, or wish they did.

    In other words, despite liking cars in theory, the only reason I own the cars I do is because I have to.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in the group you described that wishes they could bike to work. I got very used to living in urban areas where everything I wanted was within walking or biking distance. My job has since taken me to rural WV. The area is beautiful and great for mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, etc but having a car and using it daily is a requirement.

  • avatar


    I’m 27, married and I’m in the military in the deep South, far away from big cities. The ONLY reason I’m paying huge payments for my ’06 Explorer is my baby daughter, and when my credit improves, a brand new Cruze will be in line for consideration (due to employee discount from family members). For my personal car, right now it would either be an early to mid 90s BMW or a motorcycle, but I like money more than cars, so in the interest of preserving my hard-earned savings account and (aside from the Explorer) debt free life, I choose to hold off indefinitely. I wish it was easier to indulge myself – maybe I’ll start a used Eurocar dealership after I retire. But right now, money trumps cars. Despite not making a lot of money, I have a life of small-scale excess and disposable income due to budgeting and benefits. Not giving that up – I’ve been in the poor house before, for way too long to go back.

    I see the new car market collapsing at some point, until cheaper options come out and we start to look more like Brazil’s new car market (maybe not that extreme but you get it). In this front, Nissan is (bizarrely) leading the way with its cheapo rides.

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    Add another 25 yr. old to the tally. I’ve noticed many of the same trends among my friends and acquaintances as have been described above: broke, under/unemployed, barely treading water. I count myself among the fortunate to have graduated college with little debt (worked waaaay too much during college), secured stable full-time employment making a decent wage (not great, but defiantly better than most), and I have been able to purchase a home in the suburbs for a decent price.

    As has been stated by multiple posters, I too saw little reason to buy a new car when I could buy a used luxury car for the same money. Being a car lover, this was a no brainer to me. So I went and purchased a used-CPO Jaguar S-Type R for the price of a new Camcord-blandmobile (my Dad had a serious WTF moment though when I brought the car home – but since it was MY MONEY and I was paying him rent, he couldn’t honestly say anything).

    Now that I am a few years removed from that purchase, I have had ample time to reflect on that particular purchase. Cost of ownership for this 400hp beast has not been cheap: gas – expensive, insurance – expensive, out of warranty work – expensive, speeding tickets – expensive. However, I would not trade the sublime feeling I get driving that car for anything (plus I only have 6 payments left). Not having any real vices, I can easily afford and justify this car. In addition, I have also purchased a second “beater” car to save on wear and tear on the Jag (a Buick Park Avenue Ultra).

    But, I do understand that I am an anomaly when it comes to money management and my age. I am by no means perfect, but I do understand that spending $5/day on coffee and $100/month on a phone are not prudent fiscal moves (at least to me). I can see how somebody my age would be ill equipped to manage one, let alone two, automobiles. Not ever having been in the category of people who are financially struggling, I cannot comprehend how difficult it must be. But, as somebody who is doing ok, I can vouch for the fact that a used “prestige” brand has much more appeal than a new “value” brand, especially considering how much more reliable said prestige brands are these days compared to days past.

    I am starting to ramble now, but I will close with this. When I was somewhat younger, 16-17, I accompanied my Dad to the Chevy dealership to buy his new truck. I remember one of the other salesmen approaching me and saying that I should come back in a couple of years so that he may sell me a Cobalt. Even then when I was not as versed in the comings and goings of adulthood, I was insulted as a car guy. At least try to sell my ego with a Corvette or the then new CTS-V.

  • avatar

    Great perspectives here. I’m 28, and something I haven’t seen mentioned here is Gen Y’s perception of brands in the industry.

    Overall, I think Gen Y is an open book when it comes to considering brands. There’s little of the “Ford guy” or “GM guy” mentality these days. Even the import tuner fanbois that pervaded in the late ’90s/early ’00s seem like something from the past. Most Gen Y-ers could not tell you which companies are American, or German, or Japanese. Most have no awareness of which companies own which, e.g. Toyota = Lexus, Nissan = Infiniti, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things like “Lexus is German, right?”

    Nobody in Gen Y was burned by a horrible GM or Ford vehicle from the ’70s or ’80s and holds a decades-long grudge. Cars have always been pretty damn reliable during the course of our lifetimes. My parents have always driven American cars (including through the dark years of the ’90s), and I can recall only a few breakdowns that left us stranded. It has always been very rare for us to see newer cars broken down on the side of the road.

    On top of everything, over the past decade, the quality gap among all automakers has tightened considerably. It’s pretty hard to find a truly shitty car – from any make – these days.

    So without bias about country of origin, or reliability, or quality, what is left? Styling, performance, and value. Like any generation, each member of Gen Y places their own individual emphasis on each of these three things. Some want a cool-looking car and don’t care about performance (Veloster). Some want the fastest car they can afford (Mitsu Evo). More sensible Gen Y’ers want a lot of well-rounded for their dollar (Elantra). Yes, there are badge snobs who buy Bimmers and Audis because they are expensive.

    But overall, it seems most members of Gen Y give each brand a fair shake. Most do not automatically go buy a Honda or Toyota because that’s what their parents drove. The brands that pander to Gen Y (Scion) don’t get extra credit because they are trying so hard to be cool. They fact that someone posted above that a Gen Y female had posted that she was looking at Hyundai and Buick illustrates this perfectly.

    Good, compelling product that offers value will sell to Gen Y, regardless of brand. I think we’re at a very compelling time in the industry — things that have seemed set in stone for the past 20 years (Japanese dominance, a love affair with SUVs and trucks, etc.) are rapidly changing as we get into this decade.

  • avatar

    I am 29 and just recently graduated from college. I was in and out of college for years and finally decided to finish. I used to buy newer cars and have payments. I owned these while going to college and it bit me in the a$$. I have learned that payments totally suck. When you add up full coverage and payments you usually do not have any money left. I ended up getting rid of my 03 WRX ( I bought it while I had a construction job and made good money). I just could not afford it anymore. I ended up driving Hoopdie’s the rest of my college career. An example is a 95 Eagle Vision, I had a 76 Celica after that but I enjoyed driving it. I buy all my cars outright now even if they are not nearly as cool as I want them to be.

    I ended up getting a better job and purchased a 91 3000gt VR4. It was in good shape and I own it. I still drive the Celica most the time though. I do not think I will ever buy a new car. It just seems like a waste of money.

  • avatar

    I showed the tru140s to some of the teens in my autoshop class, and the consensus was that, at 25,000, and looking like that, with 40mpg, they would buy this car. Power or mechanicals never came into question.

  • avatar

    These are Poseur-cars for “virtually brainwashed, poor($) hipsters” ..


    maybe this Code 130R with ZL1’s-Camaro engine would do .. but with some miserable 4-banger it’s no use .. :)

  • avatar

    the reals Owners(yeah, the ones that suck all money from the $ystem[from suckers like you]) want to tell you that : “cheap is good” ..
    .. wait few years when banksters and “executive types” will suck it all.. .. and than they’ll introduce you to the brand new, modern, cool “global” Mustang GT500(rebranded-dressed-up Tana Nano “Turbo”! :) ..

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