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A Vehicle for a New Generation

What features and services will Millennials look for in their cars?

For over fifty years, now, cars have stood as a symbol of individual freedom, status and personality. The generation of baby boomers was the first to reach new independence and horizons thanks to the mobility allowed by cars, whether it was a small Fiat 600 for the entire family in Italy or a Mustang for a teenager in America. And the next generations, commonly referred to as Gen X, followed suit. However, Gen X has had to come to terms with an increasing range of issues related to the exponential rise of car sales, including air and noise pollution, road congestion and the increasing cost of gas. What will happen with the so-called Millennial generation?

Millennials are undoubtedly an extremely diverse, socially conscious and tech-savvy group. They are the digital natives that are changing the world. At present, this generation is plagued by debt and unemployment, but they are projected to be the wealthiest ever. And they will undoubtedly vastly alter the automotive industry. Indeed, over the next ten years, 40% of all new vehicles will be sold to Millennials.

There is a common misconception that states that Millennials are not interested in cars, but it is not true. This is a young generation and its purchasing power is still low, but 84% of older Millennials already own a car. Moreover, although 50% of this generation does not currently own a car, 73% intend to purchase a car within a year or so. The real question, however, is what kind of car?

Millennials are thorough researchers – and not only on-line. They are also very interested in the opinions and recommendations of their peers. Brands will continue to hold their attention, but they will be looking to new factors. An interesting window on to the future was opened by the FCA Innovation Award for University Students promoted jointly by two Italian universities.

The over 500 projects that were presented indicate that Millennials prefer comfort and security over performance; smart, interconnected digital tools and minimalism with custom-tailored features. The four winning projects emphasized what may well be the salient features of the cars that will be – or used – cars by Millennials. These include minimalistic vehicles that can be custom-tailored to user preferences, much like we can log into any computer or social network and instantly access our settings, preferences and dashboards. Moreover, this opens up an interesting scenario in which a learning algorithm can continue to fine-tune a vehicle to a given driver’s driving style and preferences.

Indeed, this makes even more sense in a scenario that will see a strong rise in shared car systems. Millennials are not bent on ownership and the possibility of adapting any car to the current user would be a strong incentive to this type of economy. And disruptive smart features, interconnection and infotainment features are also clearly very important and will continue to increase in importance as we move towards self-driving cars. A new milestone that will be fully enjoyed by the Millennial generation.

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