Gen Y Consumers Favor Hybrids, Connected Vehicles, Survey Shows

Consumers born from 1980 to the early 1990s, known as Generation Y, prefer hybrids and connected cars, which may define the automobiles of the future, according to a new study.

In a global survey of consumers, 57 percent of this young cohort preferred an “electrified vehicle,” Deloitte LLP, which conducted the study, said yesterday in a statement. Dashboard technology was the most important part of an automobile’s interior to 59 percent of Gen Y respondents, with 73 percent preferring touch-screen controls, Deloitte said.

“This could be a tipping point for moving electrified vehicles mainstream in the U.S.,” said Craig Giffi, Deloitte vice chairman and automotive practice leader. “The motivation is heavily based on economics, lowering their fuel costs. What’s driving them to hybrids and electrified vehicles is not so much saving the planet as they want to save their pocketbook.”

Automakers and other marketers are keen to crack the code on selling to Gen Y, a group of about 80 million consumers in the U.S. that is almost as large as the Baby Boomer generation born after World War II. Gen Y consumers will purchase one in four new automobiles sold in the U.S. this year and 40 percent of the vehicles sold in the next 10 years, Deloitte said.

Winning over Gen Y consumers is challenging because they are not as enamored with cars as their parents, said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co. (F)’s president of the Americas. The number of 16 year-olds getting a driver’s license declined 16 percent from 1978 to 2008 and young people are driving less, Fields said.

“It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that we will be able to sell cars to a large and emerging demographic,” Fields said in a speech at Deloitte’s Gen Y conference in Detroit. “If we’re going to continue to grow as an industry and as a company, it’s really important we reach this consumer.”

Smartphone Challenge

The smartphone has replaced the car as “the ultimate mobile device,” Fields said. So Ford is engineering cars that connect seamlessly to smartphones and that have dashboard controls that function like cellphones, he said.

“This is a generation that has to be reckoned with,” Fields said. “They’re more tech-savvy and relatively affluent than any generation we’ve ever seen. You ignore them at your own peril.”

For its annual Gen Y survey, Deloitte polled 1,500 Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomer consumers in the U.S., 250 Gen Y consumers in China and 300 Gen Y consumers in Western Europe. The study was conducted in September and October 2011, the researcher said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Keith Naughton in Detroit, Michigan, at Knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.