Saturday, 24 March 2012

General Motors turns to MTV to draw reluctant young buyers

Ross Martin, 37, is an established poet and a former drummer in an alternative rock band. Wearing Nike high tops and loose fitting jeans, he is the kind of figure who wouldn't attract a second glance on the streets of Brooklyn, where he lives. But on a chilly afternoon here last month, he managed to attract some odd looks as he walked across the 24th floor of General Motors' global headquarters.
Martin is the executive vice-president of MTV Scratch, a unit of the giant media company Viacom that consults with brands about connecting with consumers. He and his team are trying to help General Motors solve one of the most vexing problems facing the car industry: many young consumers today just do not care that much about cars.
That is a major shift from the days when the car stood at the centre of youth culture and wheels served as the ultimate gateway to freedom and independence. Young drivers proudly parked Impalas at a drive-in movie theatre, lusted over cherry red Camaros as the ultimate sign of rebellion or saved up for a Volkswagen Beetle on which to splash bumper stickers and peace signs.
Today, Facebook, Twitter and text messaging allow teenagers and 20-somethings to connect without wheels. High gas prices and environmental concerns don't help matters. "They think of a car as a giant bummer," said Martin. "Think about your dashboard. It's filled with nothing, but bad news." There is data to support Martin's observations.
In 2008, 46.3% of potential drivers 19 years and younger had driver's licenses, compared with 64.4% in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers ages 21 to 30 drove 12% fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.
Forty-six percent of drivers ages 18 to 24 said they would choose internet access over owning a car, according to the research firm Gartner. Cars are still essential to drivers of all ages, and car cultures still endure in swaths of suburban and rural areas.
But automobiles have fallen in the public estimation of younger people. In a survey of 3,000 consumers born from 1981 to 2000 - a generation marketers call "millennials" - Scratch asked which of 31 brands they preferred. Not one car brand ranked in the top 10, lagging far behind companies like Google and Nike.Automobile News

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