Millennials Disappointed In Auto Industry

According to new research released today by, millennials’ expectations of vehicle ownership and the automotive industry at large are unmet in the year 2020.

Critics of autonomous vehicles really need to take note: The generation born between 1981-96 expressed their appreciation for car ownership, but dissatisfaction with technological advancement in the space.

Forget adaptive cruise control; 43% of millennials expected flying cars by now. Yes, as in "The Jetsons." Furthermore, 48% believed fully autonomous vehicles would be widely available, ahead of Gen X (35%) and boomers (36%). In the next 10 years, millennials expect fully autonomous vehicles (54%), more alternative fuel sources (46%) and over-the-air software/control updates (40%).

Research findings were based on a U.S. consumer study in January 2020. In total, 954 consumers completed the survey. For the purpose of this study, millennials were considered those born between 1981 and 1996; Gen X between 1980-1965; and boomers between 1964-1946. 

“Millennials had high expectations for a futuristic automotive experience by the year 2020,” said Matt Schmitz, assistant managing editor, in a release. “But our research found that while the industry hasn’t advanced as quickly as they envisioned, millennials’ attitude toward automotive is extremely positive, and they are the most excited among their generational counterparts to shop for their next vehicle.”

One encouraging stat: 87% believe car ownership is important. That’s slightly higher than Gen X (86%) and a little less than boomers (94%).

Auto dealers better get with the times: Millennials are twice as likely than boomers (62% vs. 36%) to shop for and purchase a vehicle entirely online, and are more likely if it includes a trial period, a return policy or free delivery service. Their counterparts are way more into performing online car shopping tasks such as researching makes and models, determining “what I can afford,” and insuring their vehicle.

One thing troubling from an economic standpoint: Millennials are far more likely than boomers to take out longer-term auto loans — and some dealers are offering up to 8-year notes — to keep monthly payments down.

When asked about financing $25,000 at a 4.5% interest rate, the largest share of millennial respondents (26%) selected $316 per month for 96 months, compared to just 16% of boomers. Millennials are more concerned about monthly payment amount, while boomers are more concerned about interest rates.

For a generation so consumed with technology, these are going to be some pretty disappointed drivers in about four years, when car technology has continued to improve and they are stuck with their vehicle for another four years. Hopefully their Gen X parents are encouraging them to think about that. 

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