Automotive Blog

Young buyers are few and far between

The much-coveted new vehicle buyers age 18-34, sometimes referred to as millenials, are a dwindling group. Five years ago they accounted for 17% of all new vehicle buyers, but so far this year they comprise just 11%. In contrast, the buyer group age 55-74 has grown from 26% to 36%. Whether the younger buyer has lost interest in cars or simply doesn’t have the money for a new vehicle (average price = approximately $30,000), the fact remains that the new vehicle market is skewing more and more to the older customer.

New Vehicle Customers Age 18-34 and 55-74 Percent of Total Industry

Even though only about one of every 10 buyers in 2012 is a millennial, these buyers are still sought after for two reasons: they represent seven or eight upcoming buying cycles, and, if a make can capture a young buyer, the cost of retaining that owner will be less than the cost of capturing an owner of a competitive make. Asian OEMs continue to dominate the millenial market, capturing over half of it in each of the past five years as well as 2012 (April calendar year-to-date). The domestic OEMs now have a little under 40%, up from less than a third in 2010 after the restructuring at GM and Chrysler. The European share remains small, but has been rising and is now approaching 10%.

Mix of New Vehicle Buyers Age 18-34 by Origin of Brand, Trended Over Six Years

Winners and Losers in the 18-34 Age MarketNine makes have made significant progress in appealing to the young buyer. Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Buick and Mini have all seen their shares of the 18-34 buyer double over the past five years, while Ford, Audi and Volkswagen have also enjoyed sizable gains. The gains at Volkswagen are driving the gain for the overall European group.

On the other side of the coin, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Toyota and Lincoln have all retreated in this area. Even though Toyota has lost favor with the millenials, it is still the most popular make with these buyers and has been for the past five years in a row thanks in part to the ongoing contribution of the Scion sub-brand.

Posted by Tom Libby, Lead Analyst, North American Forecasting, Polk (06.21.2012)

About The Author

Manager, Loyalty Solutions and Industry Analysis

Tom currently uses his passion for the auto industry to serve as a Solutions Consultant for IHS Automotive's Loyalty Practice. His past roles here include Sr. Forecasting Analyst and PolkInsight Advisor (he worked for two years in Polk’s Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey office). Tom's other interests include reading, gardening, sailing and running. Aside from Detroit and New York, Tom has also lived in Los Angeles, Denver, and Boston, where he drove a taxi for two years. Tom has also traveled extensively in the United States and overseas, including an overland trip across Asia after graduating from college. Tom is inspired by people who practice what they preach and enjoys socializing with friends that he's met throughout his career and from school.

Tom is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA). During the 2009 calendar year, Tom was President of that organization. He is an active member of the Automotive Press Association, and in the past has written a blog for the online version of the Detroit Free Press. Tom has a bachelor's degree in history from Amherst College, an MBA with a marketing concentration from Columbia University and once served as an Adjunct Professor of Market Research at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.