THE GEN-Y VALUES
Is the ‘Me Me Me’ generation really apathetic to cars?
‘You’d believe local carmakers are successful in targeting millennials’
Iknow a member of the postwar-baby generation (or, as he hates to be called, a baby boomer— tanders in his generation’s lingo) who just can’t get over being envious of millennials. Born near the tail end of the period after World War II (1946 to 1964), when the world experienced a surge in babies as countries were rebuilding and economies were beginning to boom, he now wishes he was born a millennial (1981 to 2001), preferably to Gen X (1964 to 1981) parents.
But this Boomer I am describing only has a superficial understanding of millennials and their traits or characteristics, as described in various studies. These studies show that millennials, far from being distracted, uncaring, and lazy individuals forever looking at their smartphones and tablets (a perception spread perhaps by envious boomers) are actually more aware, better educated, and more communityoriented than their parents and grandparents.
All he is envious about is that millennials seem to have the coolest toys, gadgets, and, yes, cars. And that more than a few could afford their toys—and flaunt these, too. Especially when it comes to automobiles. He is particularly miffed at sales promos that make it seem like local carmakers and distributors want to give their latest products away.
Boomer believes these all-in, low-downpayment, low-monthly-installment promos target millennials, from those new in the workforce and commanding starting salaries that banks deem enough to qualify for five- to six-year loans for entry-level subcompacts, to middlemanagement types and new entrepreneurs looking for executive SUVs, sedans, or workhorse/family AUVs.
Why wasn’t he born among this generation that grew up with the Internet, digital music, smartphones, and, lately, smart cars? A generation that communicates and experiences the world mostly online, and some of whom could and do get to afford their own cars from their first-job earnings? Heck, he says, just the signing bonuses for BPO jobs can more than meet the cash-out needed for those all-in promos for entry-level cars. I can understand his frustration because my first job earned me P850 a month—enough to help me pay for my college tuition, but certainly not for the down payment for a car, even a secondhand one.
Boomer really feels it’s unfair that entry-level vehicles for millennials roll out of dealerships fully loaded, as we say in tanders lingo. Climate control, a complete alphabet of cutting-edge electronic driver aids, mobile entertainment systems interfaced to beloved phones and tablets, et cetera ad infinitum. In his generation, entry-level cars rolled out on four wheels, with a spare tire, an engine, and brakes. And a full tank of fuel, if the dealership was generous.
It really doesn’t matter to Boomer that there may be hidden costs to all the ostensible added value to the entry-level cars for millennials. He gets irritated by suggestions that the millennials are being taken for a good long ride down debt river by banks and carmakers. Those low installments for long-term loans could mean that millennials end up paying near or more than P1 million for a P500,000 automobile, which, when fully paid up after four, five, or six years, is book-valued at half its original selling price.
“That’s just the cost of money,” is his rebuttal to this.
He also doesn’t quite agree with findings of studies on millennial spending habits that suggest millennials aren’t as interested in buying a car of their own. They see mobile phones, tablets, laptops, gadgets, and toys of the digital age as aspirational acquisitions that serve to define them as individuals. They are not as interested in getting a driver license as soon as they are of age, then working to acquire a car with their names on the registration. These were once symbols of a young adult’s growth and independence in the world.
The studies indicate that millennials are spending as much on digital gadgets and providers for getting online as they would for leasing a vehicle. It may be true in the US, where most of such studies are conducted, but not on our shores, he argues. Just take a look at who’s driving more and more of the new automobiles on the road in Metro Manila, and you’d even believe local carmakers are successful in targeting millennials.
And just look at who are the fastest and most persistent in posting rants on social media against any suggestion, plan, or order that would curtail the use of their vehicles, he adds. I am betting the wannabe-millennial means millennials, but not being quite as active on social media or no longer on the road as much as I used to before I became a homebody boomer myself, I really can’t validate such observations.
Still, carmakers may be on the right track in offering cars that will have more value to millennials. And by this, I mean making vehicles as extensions of how millennials experience the world through digital communication. The future of automobiles and personal transport may mirror how smartphones and tablets have taken over the role or function once reserved to cameras. Saying automobiles could one day be just phones or tablets or communication devices with wheels may still be a joke today. It might not be quite a joke in future.
Oh, there would surely be old curmudgeons and maybe young contrarians who’d still value horsepower and the thrill of using them on the road of the future, just as there are photographers today who still lug SLRs and heavy lenses to take photos.