Is GenY paving the way for a hybrid automobile future?

Annual research done by Deloitte last month, concluded that a strong majority (59 percent) of Gen Y respondents surveyed prefer an ‘electrified vehicle’ over any other type of car or truck (see Bloomberg). Moreover, Gen Y consumers heavily favor hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles (57 percent) over pure battery electric vehicles (2 percent) or vehicles with a traditional gasoline-only powertrain (37 percent). Gen Y’s strong affinity for hybrid vehicles could make it the “generation that leads us away from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles,” says Craig Giffi, automotive practice leader at Deloitte LLP, after seeing the survey results.

The annual survey, now in its fourth year, canvassed 1,500 Gen Y, Gen X and baby boomer consumers in the United States, as well as 250 Gen Y consumers in China and 300 Gen Y consumers in Western Europe. Deloitte conducted the survey in September and Oktober 2011. It defines Gen Y consumers as those ranging in age from 19 to 31.

Game changers
Gen Y consumers may be the game changers in the United States because, at nearly 80 million strong, they are one of the biggest automobile buying market segments and the largest consumer segment since the baby boomers. Giffi from Deloitte indicates that, according to projections, one out of four new automobiles sold this year in the United States, and 40 percent of vehicles sold in the next 10 years, should be bought by a Gen Y consumer.

So… why hybrid
Well, these are interesting findings for the automobile industry. But why, exactly, do GenY’ers want to buy hybrid cars? What explains their positive attitude towards green(er) cars? Here’s why:

  • Fuel efficiency. Gasoline price are, even in the US, getting higher and higher.
  • Gen Y consumers view hybrid technology as proven and reliable
  • Gen Y is familiar and comfortable with hybrid technology, but not so much with battery-only technology
  • The survey shows that Gen Y respondents are married to the convenience of traditional gasoline-powered automobiles, strongly preferring powertrains that do not require plug-in recharging

Smartphone and touchscreen enabled cars
Gen Y consumers,  prefer automobiles that are an extension of their social-media and digital lifestyles,” says Deloitte’s Joe Vitale. Car manufacturers may have an opportunity to capitalize on Gen Y’s connected lifestyle by developing innovative and low-cost personalization options. In-dash technology is the most important part of a vehicle’s interior for a majority (59 percent) of Gen Y respondents, with almost three-quarters (73 percent) seeking touchscreen interfaces. Gen Y consumers also rank smartphone applications as highly desirable in a new automobile (72 percent).

“Gen Y consumers clearly view their automobiles as more than just a way to get from point A to point B,” says Vitale, “They see them as a way to stay connected around the clock, and, they’re willing to pay it.” On average, Gen Y consumers are willing to spend more than $3,000 for hardware that delivers connectivity.

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