What Gen Y Drivers Really Want From Their Cars: New Survey

Anne Rippy | Riser | Getty Images

Every year, when I see the the Deloitte study of what Gen Y (avg. age 23) car buyers want or don't want, I'm always curious if my view is out of whack with those 15 or 20 years younger than me.

In the past, they've generally been in line.

Now comes this year's study.

Deloitte surveyedmore than a thousand car buyers and the findings and comments from Deloitte are quite a mix and even a little baffling.

Among the highlights:

  • Gen Y car buyers are as likely to buy a domestic car as they are to buy a foreign brand
  • They are loyal to a brand, until they have a bad experience
  • 57% want to work with dealers via the Internet instead of face to face
  • 82% want to test drive a car for 24 hours
  • This year, in-car technology is a top reason driving their decision about what car or truck to buy

Digging deeper into the survey are even more surprising results:

Top 3 Features When Choosing a Car - take a look at what's changed for this age group:

  • 2009: 1.) Gas mileage 2.) Affordability/Price 3.) Exterior styling/Looks
  • 2010: 1.) Vehicle quality 2.) Trustworthiness 3.) Safety
Detroit Auto Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report
Detroit Auto Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report

If there were any questions about how much this generation is devoted to social media - take a look at the results when they were asked if they visit Social Networking groups (ex: Facebook) to get more information about a brand or model:

  • 2009: 25% agree
  • 2010: 67% agree

This might make you laugh - take a look at what they say about the kind of vehicles they see themselves driving in five years

  • 2009: 1.) SUV 2.) Sedan-non luxury 3.) Luxury crossover or sedan
  • 2010: 1.) Mid-size 2.) SUV 3.) Sports Car

And when asked, "I would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly vehicle", these were their answers:

  • 2009: 53% agree
  • 2010: 61% agree

For the most part, the findingsmake sense, although I did chuckle at the idea of a dealer giving you the keys to a car and saying, "see you tomorrow." But on the topic of in-car technology, Deloitte's Joe Vitale said something about Gen Y that is troublesome. Vitale told me, "The (government) regulator view is that texting is distracting to driving. The Gen Y consumer view is that driving is a distraction to texting, and I think that really tells the story of they don't want to sacrifice anything."

That apparently includes the idea of potentially sacrificing the lives of others on the road.

As worrisome as the idea is about younger drivers wanting to stay connected behind the wheel, it's even scarier that I'm not surprised.

This is the great challenge for automakers.

As the cell phone and Internet move further into the car, the trick is giving Gen Y car buyers (40% of the market by 2012) what they want, while not making it a distraction. That's far easier said than done. Automakers like Ford are pushing systems like Sync where you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Sync has been popular with buyers, but as technology changes rapidly, those systems will need to move just as quickly to give Gen Y what it wants, while making sure they stay tuned in behind the wheel.

After all, we don't driving a car to interrupt a good text (and yes, that was said with extreme sarcasm).

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