Generation Y is one of the auto industry’s primary targets these days; by 2012, estimates are that Gen Y will buy 40% of the new cars sold. That’s a huge chunk of the market, so automakers spare no expense on conducting annual surveys to find out what 20-something buyers expect. Deloitte just completed their most recent survey, and the results are a mixed bag; some are surprising, while others are fairly obvious:
– Gen Y buyers are equally likely to buy domestic as they are foreign.
– They display brand loyalty until they encounter a negative experience with the brand.
– The majority prefer to negotiate deals via internet instead of at a dealership.
– Over 80% want a 24 hour test drive before committing to purchase.
– In car technology is now a leading consideration for buyers.
I can’t say I’m surprised by any of these results; if anything, they’re encouraging. Gen Y buyers know what they want and they expect quality and content. They’ll drive the adoption of new technology by automakers, as demonstrated by Hyundai’s Blue Link and Ford’s Synch telemetrics systems. They’ll support a brand until the brand fails to support them, and that’s what business growth should be about.
There are some significant shifts in perspective from the 2009 survey. Two years ago, gas mileage was the primary feature sought, followed by price and exterior styling. Last year, the primary deciding factor was vehicle quality, followed by trustworthiness (?), followed by safety. Fuel economy didn’t make the top deciding factors, so marketing a car by its fuel economy won’t bring Gen Y buyers into showrooms. Another change was the influence of social media sites on the car buying decision; in 2009, only 25% used social media to research a vehicle, but that number had jumped to 67% by last year. Put another way, Gen Y buyers expect manufacturers to have strong social media support of their products, which creates entirely new marketing strategies (and job opportunities) for automakers.
If there’s a pucker factor in the latest study, it’s with texting and driving. Ray LaHood may be rabid in his opinion that texting leads to unsafe driving (and we agree), but Gen Y looks at it the other way around. Deloitte’s Joe Vitale was quoted by CNBC as saying, “The regulator view is that texting is distracting to driving. The Gen Y consumer view is that driving is a distraction to texting, and I think that really tells the story of they don’t want to sacrifice anything.” Since studies show that texting and driving is more impactive than drunk driving, it looks like we’ll be testing the limits of automotive safety and crash protection until automakers perfect speech-to-text technology. It can’t come soon enough if you ask me.