Aug 8, 2012
Chris Salamone

Youngsters Yearning Tech, Not Torque

Just today, Bloomberg Businessweek released a longwinded call to arms – a consumer research firm has affirmed an automaker’s worst nightmare. Non-automotive technology, like cell phones and laptops, have become more desirable to Generation Y buyers than cars.

At first blush, that might not seem like such a huge revelation. Sure, smart phones and 4G connectability are the buzzwords of the day and cars are in an entirely different market. How are the two segments related? The answer, it would seem, is as colorful as William Wallace’s declaration of freedom in Braveheart.

Buyers aged 18 to 34 years, now see non-automotive gizmos and gadgets as the principle form of independence and escape.

“A car is a symbol of freedom,” said Alexander Edwards, president of the automotive division of Strategic Vision Inc., a San Diego-based consumer research firm. “But unlike previous years, there are many different ways that a Gen Y person can capture that freedom.”

Synthesizing the argument, young folks are thinking of better ways to spend their money. And for the people fortunate or mad enough to live in big cities, public transit has become a major priority to compensate for this generation’s focus on connectivity.

The statistics speak for themselves. In 2000, the industry reported 17.4 million sales of cars and light trucks to Gen Y. Then from 2000 to 2007 the annual average dropped to 16.8 million. As shtuff hit the fan in 2007 to present, sales dipped even further. Fortunately 2012 is looking optimistic, with a projected volume of about 14 million by the end of the year.

But that doesn’t mean automakers are doomed, either. Just because young buyers are spending their money on different forms of independence shouldn’t mean that the likes of Ford, Chrysler, and GM are out of luck. Instead, the companies will likely continue to blend modern connectivity with automotive transportation.

And perhaps, cars which simply ‘get out of the way of technology’ will sell the best. For example, Bloomberg reported that a 26-year-old buyer chose the Ford Focus over VW Golf because of the Focus’ ability to play Spotify Internet music from his Android phone. Car buyers don’t want to have to use/pay for/subscribe to a different Ford-specific music service. They want to use the music service which is already personalized and tailored for them. In short, open-source dashboards are in demand. Plug in that smart phone and synergize the benefits of man, machine, and network.

Source : Bloomberg Businessweek