Figuring Out the Millennial Mindset

student-debtAsk “kids these days” what’s most important to them and it’s likely the smartphone in their hand distracted them from your question.  Actually, thirty percent of the millennial generation said losing their cell phone would have the most negative effect on their life.  I’m sorry, but the $18,000 car I purchased means a lot more to me than a $300 phone.  So of course, auto dealers are flabbergasted at the mentality of the young guys.  Not to mention, older generations are trying to figure out: what’s wrong with these kids?

Automotive dealers are looking to the next generation to invest in cars.  The numbers don’t lie, and the amount of potential drivers has dropped significantly in the past decade.  Kids don’t even care about getting their license anymore, let alone buying a car.  Why?  To them, owning a car represents a huge responsibility, and the cost of gas, parking, and maintenance has discouraged them from buying.  Also, technology lets people stay connected without physically connecting – so why drive?

Sounds like a bunch of excuses, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s deeper than just that.  Millennials aren’t buying cars, and they sure aren’t buying houses.  Automotive and housing are the two largest purchases a person makes in their lifetime.  But student loan debt, high insurance premiums, low pay, low savings, tight lending standards, longer working baby boomers and coming out of probably the most difficult economy since the Great Depression has definitely put a damper on spending.  So if millennials aren’t buying, what does that say for our economy’s future?

It says, “don’t freak out, old guys.”  The millennial generation is simply facing a tougher economy than their elders realize.  Career and life milestones are happening for millennials, but later in life.  Most face “adult decisions” later than ever before, likely because over two million of them moved back in with the folks after college.  Living at home gives this generation an opportunity to save money, if they’re making any.  They may seem worthless now, but they’ll eventually get there.

Auto dealers should look at this as an opportunity to brainstorm.  You have people buying cars later in life, right after a huge technological boom.  Marketers are still trying to figure out mobile, and you’re telling me automakers are the technology pros?  I think not.  Dealers need to understand HOW millennials use technology; generations to come aren’t going to throw it out the window.  Take this down time from sales to develop a new sales approach when it comes to car buying.  This approach should include mobile technology, appeal to younger buyers and encourage the action to buy.

I had to include this quote as a tip to auto dealers: “Stop trying to be cool and give them the fist pump.  They can tell you don’t get it.” (Ross Martin, Executive Vice President of MTV Scratch)  Take this time to figure it out!