Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GM Targets Younger Buyers Via MTV

In a bid to increase sales to younger drivers, GM is utilizing MTV's help.

Our friends at Hemmings Motor News first brought this to our attention.  It seems that in a bid to get younger people to interested in buying cars, GM is turning to MTV for assistance in the matter.  The same channel that brought so many lovely things to light like Jersey Shores, Laguna Beach and The Real World.  The New York Times reports that 46% of drivers between the age of 18-24 would choose having Internet access over a car.  The article also states that in 2008 less than 50% of eligible drivers 19 and younger had a driver's license, compared to 64% who did in 1998.  In 2009, drivers between the ages of 21-30 also drove 12% less miles than in 1995.

This article got us thinking, why is that the younger generation is apathetic or no longer enthusiastic about the automobile?  If the lower sales from this generation is enough to have GM scrambling to tap into MTV's marketing groups, perhaps it means that as a whole, the automotive market will shrink in the coming decades.

There are a few ideas that come to our mind as the cause for the downward trend in sales, or the automobile's fall in prominence to the "millennial" generation (those born between 1981-2000).

First, gasoline is a lot more expensive than it was 10 years ago.  On April 15th, 2002, the average price for unleaded gasoline in California was $1.61, and on April 16th, 2012, the average price of unleaded gasoline was $4.23.  (Source: California Average Gas Price) That's an increase of ~162%!  The minimum wage in California was $6.75 in 2002 and is currently $8.00, an increase of only 18.5%.  It's easy to see why it's less likely for younger drivers to be able to go anywhere.  Their buying power for fuel is significantly lower than their peers' from a decade ago.  The days of just cruising or going on an impromptu road trip are gone for the younger drivers. 

Another reason may be that cars are much more complex today than before.  Even as late as 2000, many vehicles did not have as many electronic sensors or items on the vehicle which replaced mechanical items.  Some of the systems today require a thorough understanding in electronics, and if a problem arises with one of the sensors, it will send the vehicle into a "limp" mode which renders the vehicle nearly inoperable.  There are some scanners available which will read basic fault codes, but other codes require a specific reader usually available only at the dealership.

Online gaming and the use of the internet is another factor.  With entertainment like video games, movie/video streaming, and Facebook easily accessible and without the headaches of maintenance, insurance and gas bills that go with vehicle ownership, it's not hard to imagine why teens would rather use their money on a nice cell phone, laptop or tablet instead. 

The decline of the automobile's prominence in the public's view as a status icon, and now more as an appliance might also be attributed to the focus automakers have to isolate the driver from the outside world.  Cars have become quieter, less attention is required to drive the car (i.e. lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers, automatic transmissions, etc), more driver distractions (i.e. in-car entertainment systems or radios which require surfing menu after menu just to adjust something) and cars even have less instrumentation than before.  A case in point would be some of the economy cars which even lack a water temperature gauge!  It seems as if the experience of driving of a car is now watered down to be boring and mundane transportation for the masses.

So what are your thoughts?  Any opinions as to why cars lack appeal to the younger generation of drivers?  Is it the cars or has there been in a change in the times?  Anything you think manufacturers can do to get young people to want to drive?  Happy motoring and keep on driving!

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