Echo Boomers. iGeneration. The Millenials. The titles assigned to Generation Y are as significant and descriptive as the ones given to earlier hot rodders.
Those born after 1978—the most prevalent definition for a Gen Y—pose new challenges and opportunities as the next wave of automotive enthusiasts. Teens and late 20-somethings have aged in a digital world with access to technology that their parents never had. They have unique lifestyles, choices of entertainment and access to vehicles. But, are enthusiasts of this crop really all that much removed?
According to a study from automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Gen Y types are highly social, Internet-savvy and susceptible to economic pressures. They are a “compact-car generation” and significantly more likely to desire an import car than their parents. The study concedes that these buyers purchase domestic brands as first cars for financial reasons, but the brands they “really want” are German and Japanese.
Given the opportunity, this set of consumers is more likely to buy these brands than Baby Boomers; 15% more for BMW, 14% for Nissan and 13% for Honda.
Automotive enthusiasts, on the other hand, are not always the typical consumer. SEMA research indicates a different story for the types of people interested in modifying their cars. Data from the Automotive Lifestyles Survey isolates information from more than 900 car fans from 16 to 30 years of age.
Compact cars certainly have a presence at 16% of those surveyed, but sports cars (28%) were much more common. Light trucks (15%) and luxury cars (10%) are also popular choices. When digging deeper, it becomes clear how much emphasis is placed on performance. The most popular segments chosen were race vehicles (48.9%) and musclecars (47.7%), two areas founded by performance.
Consequently, the preferred engine has eight cylinders (44%). Roughly half of the vehicles owned by enthusiasts are model-year 2000 and newer, and almost eight out of 10 were purchased used. Similarly, 70% of these vehicles were purchased more than a year ago.
These features are in line with enthusiasts of all ages. Where this generation begins to differ is how they learn about products and where they eventually purchase them. Half consult automotive magazines while a majority (74%) goes to the web for detailed information—specifications, installation guides, dyno charts and advice.
They rarely seek advice in person and often come prepared when visiting brick-and-mortar establishments. Instead, many spend time on websites and forums. About two-thirds (66%) frequent forums on a daily basis, and 84% check at least once during the course of a week.
Younger enthusiasts have not strayed too far from the roots of the industry. They still enjoy performance, the ability to customize and the lifestyle of the hobby.
For more original market research, visit www.sema.org/research.