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When did automakers start hating young people so much?

The Hagerty home offices in Traverse City recently received an absolutely wonderful gift: a comprehensive selection of Big Three dealership brochures spanning the period from Woodstock to the Vans Warped Tour. I was drawn to it like the proverbial moth to the proverbial dumpster fire, flipping excitedly through promotional materials for the Chevette and the mid-1970s Mercury Monarch as if I could rekindle the rabid automotive enthusiasm of my youth just by seeing a few carefully-staged pictures of young people ooh-ing and aah-ing over a beach-stranded Jeep CJ-7 or Ford Ranchero.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/07/09/automakers-start-hating-young-people

Well put. I am sure that there will be plenty of comments discussing how much young people hate cars before they read the entire article, but point of auto makers not making a car that is both attractive and affordable to young buyers is a real problem. I think it also makes the illusion that younger people do indeed hate cars. In a sense we do, we hate the options forced upon us.

Young people don’t hate cars, nor are they unwilling to take on a lease that makes them too poor to eat. They simply don’t care about vehicle dynamics anymore. They want a 4-wheeled iPad.

Leaving features off a new car will not make them more interested, especially when it’s the electronic items that don’t cost that much when mass-produced.

I respectfully disagree. I don’t think as many younger buyers fit that mould as what one might think. As a millennial car enthusiast here’s what I care most about. I care about how it makes me feel. I would happily trade the gadgets and the creature comforts for a car that puts a grin on my face when I put my foot down. Now, this car doesn’t have to be a million horsepower, but it needs to make the right noises and give the illusion of speed. If the car looks like it was styled by an accountant, then it needs that experience to be even more of the main feature. Hence why I prefer the Holden based GM cars like the GTO, G8 and SS so much. None of them are necessarily lookers, but they are focused on making the driver feel good about. I don’t want or care about lane active cruise control, in car WiFi, infotainment, etc. they all disconnect you from the experience of driving.

They need to capture the car as a joy to drive or something to make a statement of self to capture enthusiasts or to make new ones. Why do you think Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis are still the car every kid knows. They are a super concentrated form of that. Sure, most millennials will never own one, but a small taste is more than enough. If the automakers offer us a car that we would like enough to look back at in a parking lot at a price that doesn’t force us to pay for it for 10 years, I think millennials would buy it.

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I’ve said this before in other venues, but the Fox Mustang was the last time Ford actively pursued the youth market. With the introduction of the 93 Cobra and the restyled 94 Mustang, Ford made a conscious decision to move the Mustang upmarket, abandon the kids and chase Boomers in the midst of their mid-life crises.

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I recently traded in our wretched Hyundai Elantra on a 2014 CTS Coupe. My 24 year old son had a Focus ST. After one ride in the CTS, he started looking at used ATS’s. He traded the FoST in on an ATS a couple weeks ago. Not sure what that says about the young people aspect, but he got a faster car than he had, with AWD, a much better ride, and much nicer interior.

Interestingly, I know two young women (late 20s) who couldn’t care less about cars in general, but who were both very excited to tell everyone about their newly acquired Honda HRVs. I don’t know what drew them both to the HRV (particularly when the Fit is cheaper, more economical, and more practical), but both showed enthusiasm for their cars that seems increasingly rare. The appeal is lost on me, but Honda’s product planners or marketers must be doing something right.

It’s this type of thing that always makes me wish I had a better understanding of how non-car enthusiasts go about the process of choosing a car. I feel like I have a reasonably good idea of how a hyper-miling Insight driver, an off-roading Raptor driver, an autocrossing Miata driver, and a drag-racing Hellcat driver might make their choices and how they view each other, but I have no idea how a soccer mom decides whether she should be shopping for a Camry or a Traverse (is that still a model Chevy sells?).

Let me first start off by saying…

I am not a young person.

I have vague and fond memories of being one, but that only sort.of applies…

However, I do work with quite a few people in the younger generations.

I think, a mini truck would be a good market that appears like nobody is in right now.

Station wagons, too. Where have all of those gone? They were the cheaper alternative to minivans.

The minivan has a stigma nowadays, rightly or wrongly, it is there nonetheless. This being written on the eve of the beetle’s 3rd and more than likely final demise doesn’t bode well for vw in America. The new beetle may not have had the charm of the original, but at least they were trying. Rehashing out the microbus and expecting people to pay a lot of money for it may not pan out well for them.

Couple of things about the manufacturers, I agree they have contempt for the car buying public. Sticking people with depreciation year after year no matter what model is purchased, the whole concept of a lease that is only beneficial to the actual owner of the vehicle, and no interest in helping people maintain their rides. Not making parts after 10 years. Not ever designing card that look cool or are built to last. My own son would rather have his corvair than anything new made by any manufacturer with the exception of a Tesla. Even then, and especially when I point out the facts about automotive life to him of which most of us in these forums have already about the fallacies of EVs as true environment heroes and the robotic apocalypse of self driving vehicles along with centralized external controls for your vehicle and the inherent risks behind that. The fact is to him, they look kind of cool, but he’d still prefer the corvair ultimately.

The main thing is, all car commercials now are filmed in non relatable fantasy worlds. The normalcy of elegant dinner parties is perhaps more believable back then in the 60s than today’s cityscapes, freeways, and countryside WITH NO OTHER VEHICULAR TRAFFIC. EVER.

Scooters are fun to ride, but dangerous and only useful to the cutt dwellers and the companies that rent them out. They are actually just as bad environmentally speaking because of the manner in which they get dumped.
Today’s youth are smart enough to realize that putting up with traffic and dealing with jerks out there on the road may not be their cup of tea. Hence, the success of rideshare companies, etc.

Us old timers know that they are missing out on some of the great things about car ownership. Burning rubber, back seat bingo, cruising, drive in movie theaters, that kind of thing. Unfortunately for them, reading about these experiences arent necessarily the same as experiencing them, so they end up missing out on something that they weren’t even aware of.

So, there you have it. It’s a possible explanation.

I fall into the Millennial category technically, although I don’t like to admit it since I’m the oldest of the group. The mini pickup is an excellent idea, and it would interest a lot more people than just young buyers. I’ve heard a lot of guys talk about how there isn’t a small truck anymore since the Rangers and Tacomas of today are the size of the 90s half tons. But, unfortunately for car makers, I don’t buy new even if there was a $9,999 pickup option. I buy used, and usually really used. I’d rather own my 1952 Chevy 1.5 ton, 1968 Chevelle 4 door, 1980 CJ5, 1985 F250, and 2000 F350 than a new truck. My wife may be the target of this article though, as she is looking to sell her minivan now that our kids are a little older, and she wants something fun and cheerful. She specifically mentioned a newer Mini Cooper or VW Bug! The rusted out 70s VW Transporter I just drug home isn’t going to cut it for her. Maybe the postal Jeep that I still need to go pluck out of a field will appeal to her.

The transporter if not rusted out too badly is an excellent vehicle for a cheap ev conversion, plenty of room for batteries.

Or, just camper convert it.

I like the idea of the postal jeep, although from one of my buddies, you never know what you are getting under the hood of those. Could be done up really nice, even have a name and a theme for you for that one, call it Goin Postal.

Many many themes for vw buses, though, so pick your own there.

One last thing about this thread, I saw the elephant in the room that none of us really talk about, the toyota Corolla this a.m. a world wide big seller, more than likely because of affordability and perceived toyota reliability. Other compact cars couldn’t compete with price or brand perception.

The VW is not rusted out too bad. It’s complete, and will hopefully be able to run again and I’ll just sell it. I don’t have any desire to ever have an electric vehicle, but a camper conversion would be fun. I failed to mention I also have a 1971 Chevy P30 sitting around that we’d like to make into camper conversion one day. It’s the light P30, with single rear wheels, and the uncommon single 8 lug 19.5 rims, with a 292 4 speed.

You know the car you describe in the second to last paragraph exists and is marketed today. Yes it is $20k not 10, but hey minimum wage has doubled in the last 30 years, so a 10k mini truck can be 20. The other difference is this truck comes with the shell on it already, so the bed isn’t open. This mystery car is the Ford Transit Connect. $20,000 dead base, seats 2, has a 7 foot bed with shell/topper and is reliable. I have one love the thing. I wanted a new mini truck and this fit the bill. Just has to be marketed correctly. Oh did I say for daily use I enjoy this more than my SHO.

I’m sure the Transit Connects are fine vehicles, but I’ll strongly disagree that it fits the bill on these points listed in the 2nd to last paragraph: aspirational and cheerful. I also see that they start at $26,000 where I am for the base panel version.

The $20K figure may be if you are able to buy it as a commercial user instead of a regular joe?

I’ve seen these at farmers markets, the vendors like them, the one gal we used to buy pre frozen meals off of loved hers, but the next model year they came out with the commercial models that had the built in freezers. She ended up towing her freezer with the Transit Connect to all of the markets to sell her foodstuffs.

Either way, wasn’t aware these were front wheel drive.

Also, looks more like a minivan than a mini truck with a shell on it, so perhaps that is why the youngsters aren’t picking them up and just settling for a Corolla?

who knows.

Why bother when there are plenty of $3k sport sedans ripe for modding and a rack that were $50k+ 10 years ago.

I don’t know about that, I surf the net for cars like that on a fairly consistent basis and most of the 10 year old sports sedans worth considering are more like $10,000 and up if you don’t want to spend a substantial amount fixing deferred maintenance, and even at $10,000 there’s still going to be issues. I’ll pose the question. Why do younger enthusiasts have to wait for someone’s 10 year old leftovers to get something interesting that is affordable? This really isn’t entitlement based thought, more pointing out a missed opportunity by the automakers.

As one of the older members of the millennial group, I can say I’m generally unwilling to spend almost any money on a new car. I am NOT a car person, I own one because its necessary. Something like you describe here would be perfect! As a teen I adored the VW Bug (as you say, cute and colorful), but it was generally outside of my price range. Since then I’ve had a few cars, the best being a 96’ Pontiac Grand Am. It was hideous, all pointy and low without any “sporty” features, and a gross purple color to boot. It remains one of my very favorite cars to date because it was zippy, reliable, and CHEAP. It was only 4 cylinders, but that was more than enough to whip that thing around town, and when it eventually threw a rod I couldn’t even complain because I got 5 years (and 80+ thousand miles!) out of a $3,000 purchase, with very little extraneous maintenance.

I think a low budget pickup in fun colors would be amazing. Something I can throw my kayak/tent/bike/project furniture into, that gets decent mileage. If it came in a sunny yellow or fire engine red, I wouldn’t complain, but honestly the look is far less important than those 3 baseline concerns. Those parameters are how I’ve landed in a few terrible used cars recently, my current being a soul-sucking demon of a Dodge Journey. Definitely hits cheap, but I don’t think anyone would call Dodge “reliable”, and its definitely not “zippy”. Add the $4k I’ve paid in repairs in the last 6 months alone and I could have bought my Grand Am 5x over by now.

I also want to point out that main stream used car prices are higher than normal. The Obama cash for clunkers aka “Cash for Corollas” program took a lot of the supply out. The other thing impacting the used car supply would be VW’s dieselgate buyback.

Take these 2 hugely negative impacts upon the supply of used cars and it is no wonder that the younger crowd aren’t happening along good quality 10 year old sports cars or other desirable type models for cheap, like those of us in the older generations had a better chance at when we were their age before government and company mandated thinning of the vehicle herds.

You could argue that even though the majority of cars taken in by cash for clunkers weren’t pristine examples of automobile glory, nor were they likely to be desirable cars for many; however, ultimately it still is part of the nationwide supply of used cars that just aren’t there anymore. Try and find a used 3 row seating suv, or a minivan for a reasonable amount of money. So, when young families trying to stretch their money can’t, they end up also looking at the same sedans that the rest of the used car crowd is picking up.

You could also argue that some of the diesels picked up by VW dieselgate may have been considered sporty cars or somewhat desirable cars in the 10 year old market.

Kyle

For what its worth, that wheels on that project were in motion before he took office. Yes, he signed it, but it isnt like it was a cornerstone of his platform.

And the most traded in vehicles, by far, were…domestic trucks, SUVs, and vans. And they were traded in to purchase entry level, largely foreign, economy cars. If anything, this likely resulted in there being MORE quality used cars on the market today. Would you really argue that a 90s Ford Windstar is a better used car choice in 2019 than a 2000s Honda Fit?

This article nails a lot of issues square on the head. The only auto maker right now(in the US anyways) that seems to be getting things right is Mazda. Everything they make gets incredible praise for being “drivers cars” while performing respectably and returning good mileage and being affordable. Plus their entire lineup is gorgeous.