Most everyone reading business news these days and going to conferences are hearing a lot of information on young people, who are typically referred to as Millennials or GenY. The number of young people in this demographic is huge – kids of Baby Boomers are much larger in numbers than the previous generation, which has been called GenX. It’s good to get educated and updated on some of the study findings, as these people are being educated and employed, working up the ranks, and are making very significant transportation decisions. So here are a few trends and perspectives to think about…..
- Age range: They’ve been born somewhere between 1980 to the mid-1990s – so they’re about 18 to 33 years old.
- No longer in love with cars: While their parents got their drivers licenses soon after turning 16, that’s getting extended much longer these days – some of them up to age 20. Their interesting in buying a car or inheriting an aged family car is much less than it was 25 years ago. There’s a lot of concern among automakers and dealers that this huge market segment is buying fewer cars than Baby Boomers and Generation X – and that there’s quite a lot of them.
- They are very interested in green transportation – hybrids and electric vehicles; car sharing and public transportation makes sense to them. They are more likely to embrace autonomous, driverless vehicles than their parents seem to be. They’re very utilitarian about transportation and don’t look forward to driving spacious cars and crossovers, luxury vehicles, or pickups like many other consumers in the US market. We’re starting to see a lot of recognition of these deeper trends from BMW testing out EV and urban transportation options, and Ford being active on intelligent highway consortiums. Automakers are starting to change their identities from vehicle manufacturers to transportation providers, and seem to recognize that it’s critical to go this route to engage brand loyalty from Millennials.
- Extremely pragmatic and independent – with “Whatever!” being their teenager mantra: You may notice young people don’t carry some of the social order unspoken rules that their parents did. If they’re dating someone from another racial/ethnic group or have friends who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, it’s not an issue for them. They don’t seem to understand their parents being uneasy about it. Dad might say, “Well, one of my friends in college was gay,” to offer support, and his son will tell him that he’s being discriminatory.
- Don’t have the same work ethic and habits of someone over 40: Mom and dad might be willing to work really long hours and get pay raises, but their kids usually march to the beat of a different drummer. They tend to be focused more on basic living expenses and pragmatic necessities. Many times, they were given a lot of stuff already by their parents and it doesn’t impress them all that much anymore. They might get absorbed in a new project at the office for a few weeks, but won’t necessarily consistently deliver on what was asked of them by their employers. That can be a source of frustration for young employees and older supervisors who see a generational split.
- Very special education: They received lots of awards at school from an early age for just about anything, including showing up in the classroom. Their parents demanded excellent education for them and moved them to the best high schools to get the highest test scores, earn college credits, and take music lessons. The sad part is that many of these kids have bachelor’s and master’s degrees and are struggling to get jobs.
- Distraction is a problem: They grew up gaming and surfing the web – and do spend a lot of time staring into their phones. They’re capable of doing four things at once, but focusing on one task for very long can be tough for them – not to mention for their supervisors. There’s a lot of emphasis lately on distracted driving by young people being a crisis, according to safety specialists. However, that might be a bit extreme since there are less of them driving than in the past and cars are safer these days. The problem with people texting and talking on their smartphone while driving extends to all generations; state laws are getting tough to try and deal with it.
- Get creative about connecting with them. As Scott Pechstein, VP of Sales for Autobytel recently told Automotive Digest, it’s taking a lot of work for dealers to reach young consumers. Facebook, social media, and reputation of the dealership is important to them. Social media and speaking to them via text in the style and method Millennials want to be spoken to are necessary to reach the market segment.
- Younger people see cars quite differently: New car-sharing services, travel applications and other technological tools are contributing to a broader shift away from driving among Americans, especially younger ones interested in digital multitasking on the go, according to a study released by the US PIRG Education Fund. “Personal auto ownership used to be the clear ticket to mobility,” said Joanna Guy, of the Maryland PIRG Foundation. “For baby boomers, driving your car represented freedom and spontaneity. But today — especially for younger people — owning a car increasingly represents big expenses and parking hassles.”
- Younger car shoppers (especially first-time buyers) are very interested in seven-inch touchscreens on the new compact Chevrolet Spark. Pairing is available to the iPhone or Android and other mobile devices for contact lists, stored music, reading and composing text messages, videos and slideshows, and other perks on Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system.
- There are persuasive articles out there saying Millennials are more similar to previous generations than you’d think. While their style, communications, interests, and love affair with cars seems to be different than their elders, they are coming through with typical behaviors seen for many years in the workplace and retail environment. Much of that comes through their background – education, family, peer group, opinions, life experiences, etc.
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