A funny thing happened to the perception that young people would rather take an Uber ride than own a car: It’s not exactly accurate.
Certainly ride-hailing companies are popular in some circles but as yet haven’t exactly replaced vehicle ownership as a way of life. Surprisingly, that’s especially so with millennials and Gen Z-ers who are right now ladling on the auto debt at a ferocious clip.
The details can be found in a pair of F&I features that ran in the April issue of Automotive News Canada and online, but the news has definitely caught some of us off guard.
For dealers to address the findings, it would be easy enough to take millennial John Irwin’s advice on the opposite page and dive in with the necessary online-communication strategy that younger buyers want. Or, to turn staff into technology liaisons. But it’s not quite that simple.
If there’s one thing that we can be reasonably sure about when it comes to younger buyers, it’s that, from a product standpoint, they are tough to read. Just look at the now-defunct Scion brand. Automakers can’t tell younger buyers what’s cool and hip. Or even youthful. It works the other way around with the “kids” deciding. As any parent knows, you can’t tell them what to think.
There are likely some assumptions that can be safely made, however. Gen Z-ers and millennials are getting a bit older and many now have young families, which means putting a functional vehicle in the driveway. That skateboard just won’t cut it for family outings and Uber rides aren’t all that instant, or cheap.
Now, a small utility vehicle would seem like the natural choice. Something frisky looking with lots of angles and blacked-out trim, but — and here’s the punchline — I’ve heard through the grapevine that younger buyers don’t want utility vehicles because they’re what their parents drive. Typical contradiction, it seems, which makes the grapevine somewhat credible in this case.
I joked that it might be easier to just ignore that whole generation than to try to figure it out, an unsolvable puzzle as it were. But all kidding aside, auto executives and marketing companies will obviously be losing sleep trying to find answers to what will likely be a critical issue.
They’ll also be awake at night wondering if they can trust the data they’re getting on young buyers, ever again.