Past Issue

Cars and Millennials

By Stefan Budricks

10/01/17

Over the past year or so, we’ve spent some time contemplating the challenges Millennials present as employees. In our July 2016 issue, Evan Hackel wrote about taking the mystery out of training them, pointing to, among other traits, their entrepreneurial mindset, risk tolerance, comfort with technology, and career mobility. Last month, Hackel revisited the subject, exploring Millennials’ attitudes regarding training. Exactly one year ago, in his “On the Wash Front” column, Anthony Analetto shared his insights on how to leverage Millennials’ inclinations for success. And, if you’re in attendance at the Northeast Regional Carwash Convention in Atlantic City this month, you have the opportunity to hear Denise Ryan’s take on Millennials in a presentation aptly titled, “Millennials — Can’t Live with ‘Em, Can’t Succeed Without ‘Em.”

While our focus has been on Millennials as employees, it would serve us well to remember that they are also our customers — and will play that role for many years into the future. Millennials are the largest living demographic, and soon they will have the spending power to match. Their preferences, their likes and dislikes, and their attitudes vis-à-vis the automobile are attributes that will influence car care businesses for years to come.

A study conducted this past August by lendEDU, a student loan marketplace, sheds some light on how Millennials view cars and how this might affect the automobile industry. You will find the report here: https://lendedu.com/blog/millennials-cars/. The results are somewhat reassuring: 93.01 percent of car-owning participants considered owning a car to be a necessity in today’s society. Fewer participants (79.24 percent) thought that necessity would still exist 20 years hence. However, 93.01 percent believed their children would own cars — either because of a need or a want. Another positive result: 77.64 percent saw themselves buying another car in the next five years.

Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have long been feared as having a deleterious effect on car buying. This study does detect such an influence among Millennials, albeit a moderate one. Among car-owning participants, 16.57 percent said these services have made them rethink car ownership. Though a small percentage, the study authors point out that this cohort did not even exist a few years ago. On the other hand, 11.58 percent of respondents have actually driven for a ridesharing service, while a further 38.32 percent have considered doing it.

Unfortunately, the study contained no car wash or detailing questions. However, our fast-lube colleagues may be surprised to learn, as I was, that 67.27 percent of participants claim to know how to change the oil in their car. Whether this means theory — which is pretty straightforward — or actual practical, get-your-hands-dirty knowledge is unclear. Perhaps less surprising, 80.84 percent said they know how to change a tire.

Overall, it appears that Millennials are happy with their car-owning experience, 67.66 percent finding ownership to not be a hassle. A majority, 66.47 percent, does not view their cars as status symbols, though. Might this change as this cohort’s purchasing power increases? A recent National Public Radio broadcast maintained that, as they get older, Millennials are acting more and more like their parents, buying homes, having children, and opting for the larger SUVs.

We should not become complacent once we finally come to grips with the millennial demographic, for following hot on its heels is Generation Z, which, no doubt, will exhibit a few peculiarities of its own.



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