Can MTV Save the Car Industry?

Jordan Weissmann explores why Millennials are delaying car ownership and whether automakers can look to marketing partners such as MTV to bring back interest in car culture among a younger generation.
March 30, 2012, 9am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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There was a time when teenagers couldn't wait to turn 16 and enjoy the freedoms that driving their own car meant. This isn't the case with Millennials, the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, who have given car makers something to worry about. According to CNW research, "adults between the ages of 21 and 34 buy just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, a far cry from the peak of 38 percent in 1985."

According to Weissman, "The billion-dollar question for automakers is whether this shift is truly permanent, the result of a baked-in attitude shift among Millennials that will last well into adulthood, or the product of an economy that's been particularly brutal on the young." Weissmann offers an array of reasons, with explanations ranging from the worsening state of the economy and increased living in urban city environments to the peripatetic, wandering nature of this generation as opposed to their parents and grandparents generation.

To compensate, companies like GM are recruiting youth oriented marketing executives such as John McFarland and the consulting group MTV Scratch to try to reinvent their car concept and convince Millennials to buy in. "The strategy is to infuse General Motors with the same insights that made MTV reality shows like 'Jersey Shore' and 'Teen Mom' breakout hits."

One approach "inspired new Chevrolet colors, like "techno pink," "lemonade" and "denim," aimed at "a 23-year-old who shops at H&M and Target and listens to Wale with Beats headphones," said Rebecca Waldmeir, a color and trim designer for Chevrolet.

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Published on Sunday, March 25, 2012 in The Atlantic
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