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Automakers are struggling to capture this particular age group as sales drop

Automakers are starting to see a shift in the priorities of potential young car buyers today. Gone are the days of late teens and twenty-somethings rushing to buy their first car for a taste of freedom. Instead, this age group, or Generation Y, would prefer the latest smartphone or tablet. 
 
"A vehicle is really a discretionary purchase and a secondary need versus an iPhone, mobile phone or personal computer," said Joe Vitale, an automotive consultant with Deloitte. 
 
The car is no longer a teenager or 20-year-old's only chance at freedom. This generation can now connect via smartphone, tablet or laptop no matter where they are. 


Generation Y seems to be more into fancy gadgets than monthly car payments [Image Source: softwarewithstyle.com]
 
The other issue here is that members of this age group don’t typically have fat wallets. A cash-strapped twenty-something will choose the latest gadget to keep connected with friends and family rather than buy a car, pay to keep it maintained, purchase car insurance, etc. This is obviously much easier for those that live in large cities with reliable public transportation.
 
But having the latest device over a car isn't always a frivolous choice. Many companies today keep employees connected through email, a company website or other networks. Having a mobile device almost essential for the employed or even job seekers that need to have a way for potential employers to contact them at any time.  
 
So what does this mean for the auto industry? It means that automakers have to find new ways to capture this audience. The number of U.S. auto buyers ages 18-34 dropped to 11 percent in April 2012, compared to 17 percent in April 2007, which was before the recession. A total of 14 million U.S. auto buyers ages 18-34 are expected to make a vehicle purchase in 2012, which is the best year yet since 2007, but is still a drop from the annual average of 16.8 million from 2000-2007. 


Scion xB
 
Companies like Ford and Toyota have built inexpensive, subcompact cars like the Ford Fiesta and Scion xB/xD for the frugal youngsters that make up Generation Y. Automakers have also tried to lure this age group by adding increased technology for music and social networking in their vehicles, although the U.S. Department of Transportation has been trying to eliminate unnecessary technology in vehicles to reduce distracted driving. Automakers, however, have been rebelling and adding new tech anyway in order to give the public what it wants and increase sales. 
 
But the issue remains that if this generation just doesn't have the cash or the need for a car, automakers may have to find other ways to sell to this age group. 

Source: The Detroit News



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By mcnabney on 8/14/2012 8:59:47 AM , Rating: 3
But this survey is about new cars - not just having a car. A more accurate statement about Gen-Y would be that they don't equate having an expensive new car with the same status as previous generations. Instead, they think carrying a Macbook Pro and current generation iPhone/iPad implies the same degree of conspicuous consumption that flashy cars did in the past. They are certainly cheaper status items than cars.


By bah12 on 8/14/2012 9:43:13 AM , Rating: 3
I think that is the root cause here. Cars just aren't a status symbol anymore. I have several nieces/nephews in high school, and they just don't care what they drive.

Gen X (myself) spent their Friday nights on the "drag", he with the coolest ride was king. As the article alludes to, this was our primary way of connecting with other youth outside of school. The internet barely existed, and the only other options was to pick up the 1 phone in the house if Dad/Mom wasn't on it. Today every kid has their own personal device on them 100% of the time to connect them to literally anyone in the world. A car really is just a secondary item to them, it is no longer required for social standing.


"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis














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