Is the ‘Me Me Me’ gen­er­a­tion re­ally ap­a­thetic to cars?

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Car Culture - ERLE SE­BAS­TIAN

‘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.

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