Young People Prefer Foreign Car Brands

The youngest new car buyers, aged 19 to 27, are avoiding vehicles from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, choosing instead to patronage cars made by Asian and European manufacturers. This news comes from a study of 2009 and 2010 Generation Y car shoppers undertaken by TrueCar.com and published in July 2011.

Foreign Models

At the top of many car shopping lists was the Scion tC, a compact car made by Toyota’s sub-brand. That car was followed closely by the Mitsubishi Lancer, a sporty compact model. Notably, not one Ford, Chrysler or General Motors vehicle finished in the top ten as models such as the Kia Forte, Honda Civic and Volkswagen GLI resonated with the youngest car buyers.

This news may not come as a shock to some, but it does show that the traditional domestic car manufacturers must work diligently to reach young buyers. Indeed, both Ford and Chevrolet have brought out new models since as early as spring 2010 that should appeal to young buyers and might affect an updated TrueCar.com study. Those cars include subcompacts such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic to compact cars such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus.

Price Point

An important attraction for this group of first time new car shoppers was the price of these models. Most, with the exception of the Volkswagen GLI were priced near or below $20,000 with one model, the Kia Forte, selling for under $15,000. Young car buyers often have limited budgets to work with and the models which interest them the most are reasonably priced and often include popular amenities such as Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning and audio systems.

When car buyers connect with a brand, it is difficult for them to be persuaded to switch, especially if they are satisfied with their purchases. Some buyers will stay loyal to a brand throughout their lives, buying as many as a dozen or more new vehicles over a 40- or 50-year period. Ford, Chrysler and GM must find a way to win these buyers otherwise by the next generation these automakers may find its vehicles largely ignored by car shoppers.

Good News

The news for the domestic makers isn’t completely grim, based on sales data for its small cars in 2011. With the exception of Chrysler, customers are buying the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus, and in numbers above automaker expectations. How many of those are being snapped up by young buyers remains to be seen, but given Ford’s success with social media and its alliance with “American Idol,” its Fiesta and Focus are being exposed to young buyers.