There has been tons of talk lately about young people, or “millennials”, and their lack of interest in cars. This summer I was working on some aspects of the Chevy Spark launch, and all we talked about was how to make the car appeal to fictional young people whom nobody has ever met. As an actual member of the “millennial generation” I can tell you that this is all extremely frustrating; a bunch of idiotic older people trying to read all sorts of fantastical reasons into an answer that is really quite simple. Now, I am obviously a car enthusiast so my own tastes are not representative of my whole generation, however many of my friends fit the norm much better. I will try and make things clear, from the perspective of someone who is actually a part of the generation in question, and not some foolish marketing person in a panic.
First off, the biggest and most important factor is that the economy has been terrible. Hello obvious, we are still in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. My generation has been hit hardest because there are very few jobs out there right now for those of us just starting out. So naturally, if we don’t have money then how the hell can we buy a new car? Most of us were either handed down a car in high school, or our parents bought us one, and due to a lack of expendable funds, we have held onto them. A new car is a luxury for my generation at this point, and with the current economic climate, it just isn’t feasible for most people my age.
There are also many young people who chose not to drive at all. This is largely a mix of where they live and the costs involved (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc). People who live in cities don’t need a car, that has been the case for decades and it is no different today. And since many young people are moving to cities for work, the lack of demand for cars should be self-explanatory.
There is however one factor that I think has negatively affected the general interest for cars in my generation, and that is how most cars were boring when we were growing up. My parents grew up in the age of the glorious finned cars in the 50s, and then came of age during the era of Muscle Cars in the 60s. My generation grew up with bland, but reliable cars like the Accord and the Camry, great functional cars but not something that would entice our interest. However, to say that my generation purely is not interested is entirely wrong. Look at the movies, music videos, and TV shows that my generation craves; cars are a prominent part of our media, just not really the stuff we can afford. Please remember that we are the generation that came of age in the era of the Fast and the Furious, so don’t write us off quite yet because the interest is there. My generation wants something we can enjoy and be proud of, we like customization and are big on the image we project to others. So yes, we like Bentleys, Mustangs, and all the cool stuff that is way out of our budget without a decent job.
Below is a prime example, Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” video. Look at how prevalent the cars are in this video, and look at what types of cars are featured. All of them are “cool” cars with flavor, not boring A to B commuters. Because of this sort of video, all the Gen-Y girls will want a guy with a Mustang or a Corvette, and naturally all of the guys will want to be that guy with the hot cars and all the girls. When this is what young people want, a Hyundai Elantra or Toyota Corolla simply is not going to cut it, and really it shouldn’t have to.
So, why then would we spend what little money we do have on a car that we don’t really desire? That, right there people, is the issue. There are not enough affordable cars that are desirable to a generation that puts vanity over all else. Look at Facebook and Twitter, my generation is a bunch of little narcissistic brats who only want what they want, and aren’t willing to settle for less. So, while our lack of demand for cars is largely due to the terrible economy and lack of jobs, it is also somewhat due to the fact that we want more for our money. Car companies need to start making desirable cheap cars, not just reliable and functional ones. Get people to “want” your cars, and they just might start buying them when the money does eventually roll in.
3 thoughts on “Why young people aren’t buying cars, debunking the hysteria”
I love this article. It’s so true and so unfortunate. I am among this generation, but like you, am an exception. My brother and all of his friends are also with us (woop!) but it’s really just sad when I start going off about cars and a friend’s eyes just start to glaze over.
What’s really interesting, and even surprising to me, is how little people pay attention to the affordable cars. A friend of mine is a car enthusiast, but he’s into the ricey Tokyo Drift type, or Aston Martins, Maserati, Ferrari.. all the big names worth more than your house.
But what about Hyundai? Certainly I’m not the only one who noticed that they just came out of nowhere with those stellar new Accents, Elantras and Sonatas, right? I mean, LOOK AT THEM! What about Nissan? I swear my mouth waters every time I see a brand new Maxima. Even Ford has really stepped up their game. So why aren’t they getting recognition?
I will be honest in saying that Honda still hasn’t impressed me aesthetically, but I could be biased because my loyalty lies with Volkswagen and, well, that’s what happens.
I am a proud enthusiast of affordable cars and I do believe that car companies are starting to make the “average” cars more desirable. I do, however, agree that “the most” reliable car companies, Toyota and Honda (I use these two because we all know you can run these things into the ground) really haven’t given us any “wow” factor. One of my cars is a 2008 Toyota Yaris (which I did buy new!), and while I bought it for the great gas mileage and the hatch, let’s face it.
It’s a jellybean.
I’m so sorry this was so long haha, I just needed to get that out. Thanks again for the great post!
Its all good, I enjoyed hearing your take on this. Affordable cars are definitely getting more interesting. One of my favorites currently is the Chevy Sonic, turbo, 40mpg, and great handling, all for under $20k. There are many more like it. I have written reviews on a few of the great affordable cars on this site, with more to come. Have a look at the “Test Driven” section if you want to see them. I particularly loved the Dodge Dart as well, I drove the one with the Abarth engine and it was amazingly good. Thanks for the response.
Sweet! I’ve been meaning to poke around this blog for quite some time. I’ll admit to being a foreign car fan myself, but everything is worth looking at. 🙂