Like Mom And Pop, Gen Y Seeks Vehicle Safety

GenY Generation Y consumers constitute about 10% of the total new-vehicle market, but they wield a far greater influence on how automotive executives go to market. Judging by advertising for mass-market vehicles, what Gen Y cares about is style with a little substance.

Not so, according to San Diego consultancy Strategic Vision. The firm, which parsed data from its 2007 and 2008 New Vehicle Experience Study, suggests that in some ways, Gen Y is not all that different from older new-car buyers when it comes to brand and vehicle attributes (real or perceived) that tilt them toward a purchase.

The firm says, for example, that safety and security in design and durability are much more important to them than such considerations as how fun a new vehicle is to drive.

Gen Y buyers are usually first-time car buyers, and are therefore sensitive to issues of trust. And, says the firm, they are also more sensitive to security issues, as they feel less personally secure than other age groups. Seventy-nine percent of Gen Y buyers said they desire a vehicle that offers security, can be trusted, is safe and evinces confidence.



"They do have more interest in style and performance than older generations--but for the most part, any 19-year-old vehicle buyer is more like their 50-year-old parent than they are their Gen Y cohort," says Alexander Edwards, who heads up the firm's automotive practice.

"Adults can look at a brand name and say, 'I know what I can trust because of what I've experienced.' Kids are looking for security in the product itself."

The firm says brands with much higher perceived security ratings also have much higher levels of consideration, regardless of whether Gen Y buyers consider them fun to drive. In the study, 40% of Gen Y buyers said they definitely would buy Toyota, and 36% said the same of Honda--both with the largest consideration and perceived security scores, although they were rated about the same as other brands in the "fun to drive" measure.

Says Edwards: "Interest alone does not lead to real consideration [among Gen Y buyers]. They have to trust it first. If the security piece is there in the product, they will look at how fun and exciting it and the brand are second."

Per data from the past two studies, younger vehicle buyers are more often female--making up 77% of the age bracket, with more males buying cars as their ages increase. Only 39% of new vehicle buyers and drivers at 40 years are female. Per the firm, 93% of Gen Y buyers who are under 20 are single, with about half in "committed" relationships by ages 25-29. They are also more likely to have finished a four-year college degree, with 65% having done so by age 24.

Hispanic buyers are the largest diversity-market group among Gen Y new-vehicle buyers--comprising 11% of buyers between 20 and 24, per Strategic Vision. Asian-American buyers constitute nearly as large a percentage--8% versus 9% of Hispanics--of total new car purchases by buyers 25 to 29.

The 10 brands purchased in the highest volume by Gen Y buyers were Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Jeep, Mazda, Volkswagen and Scion. But the last--Scion--indexes as the top brand overall because its sales to Gen Y are so much higher than to the market at large.

Edwards points out that Scion owns 0.5% to 1% of total automotive market share, but that among Gen Y buyers, the Toyota sub-brand accounts for 3% of share--a 300%-plus increase. "In other words younger buyers are 3.5 times more likely to buy a Scion than the industry in general. Younger buyers appreciate the price point, and they can convince themselves or their parents that Scion is Toyota, a reliable brand."

In addition to Scion, other brands that were both in the Top 10 among Gen Y and Top 10 in the general market include VW, Mazda, Nissan, Jeep and Honda. Says Edwards: "Those six brands say something: strong sales and also they sell more to Gen Y than what you typically find in the marketplace."

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