The fire that once burned brightly in young Americans and caused them to buy a new car every year is flickering down. Since 2011, the biggest buying group, according to a University of Michigan study, is … people between 55 and 64. If you’re a carmaker, that’s not good.
The auto industry wants young people for the same reason movie studios do — because they’ve generally been the biggest demographic buying anything, including new music and electronic gadgets. And that explains why automakers are organizing big campaigns to attract millennials’ attention. Nissan Leaf video games, Ford Fiesta blogging extravaganzas.
The evidence shows that young buyers want small cars bristling with cool infotainment options, which is why Chevrolet has been able to skew its demographic downward. It’s small Sonic and Spark offer the latest in tech gear. That's the Spark dashboard below. Note how high-tech it is.
Some of it is that younger people aren’t keen on driving, but some is simply economic. As the University of Michigan’s Michael Sivak points out, “The main reason young people are less likely to purchase new vehicles per licensed driver is that they have less disposable income.” That helps explain the interest in small cars — it’s not all about the environment, it seems. So here are three cars that could sell in large numbers to millennial buyers:
The 2014 Cutting-Edge Motors Blogmobile. Less a car than a mobile blogging platform, this entry is a lightweight hybrid with basic accommodations but state-of-the-art electronics … and 75 mpg. The powertrain is well, who cares, what are we, gearheads? At $18,000 MSRP, it’s the first entry-level car with an Internet connection.
The 2018 Free Rider by Google. This self-driving car comes pre-programmed to pilot itself to key locations — home, school, the mall, the Apple Store. The base car is cheap at only $15,999 (just like computer printers!) but the company is counting on making money at the Free Rider App Store, where owners can pay to download custom destinations. The Free Rider has no front seat, just a remote-guided computer interface. But the passenger compartment is huge, decorated with throw pillows, beanbag chairs and Xbox consoles.
Sony’s 2025 Portable Studio. It’s an $22,000 electric car (subsidized by the major studios) that doubles as a first-run movie theater. When parked and plugged in, the windshield lowers and a 3-D movie screen rises up, creating an air-conditioned viewing cube for five. Connect to the latest hits from the cloud, but not until you pay the five-credit fee via SpaceCard. A popcorn maker tops the options list.
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