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Ford appeals to a new generation

Youngest buying generation wants fuel economy, design and value; likes the blue oval

Published: March 8, 2015, 7:25 AM
Updated: March 9, 2015, 7:22 PM

2015 Ford Focus Hatchback

It’s hard to keep track of all the generations currently in society — baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials — never mind all of today’s generations of legal drivers. It’s even harder to figure out what those drivers are looking for, what with all the generations of vehicle makes and models.

MaritzCX, a Salt Lake City-based global customer experience researcher and software developer, has figured out that today’s youngest generation of car buyers — Generation Z, those aged between 16 and 21 — wants fuel economy, snappy design, value in their purchases, and Ford.

The cohort is interested in newer cars for fuel-economy reasons, followed by a desire to replace vehicles that are getting too old and/or costly to repair. Ford is the most popular auto brand with Generation Z (chosen by 8.2 percent of respondents) followed by Toyota (7.2 percent) and Chevrolet (6.4).

“Making decisions based on fuel economy and value explains why these buyers tend to shop brands like Ford, which builds vehicles that prioritize these attributes,” explained Chris Travell, vice president for strategic consulting at MaritzCX.

Generation Zers were born between 1993 and 2001, and while they make up a small percentage of new car buyers, they represent 2 billion people worldwide, making them the largest single age cohort in the world (representing 21 percent of the world’s total population and 25 percent of the U.S. population). As such, they’re an important group to sell to, if not for today then to get their buyer loyalties in order for future purchases. By 2020, their purchasing power is projected to equal $3.2 trillion.

MaritzCX polled over 1,000 of them and found that in today’s buying environment, they are most interested in car segments (four of their top five segment choices are car segments) that offer up superb fuel economy (cited by 34 percent of respondents), followed by vehicle design and value.

The compact car segment tops the list of Generation Z buyers (41.1 percent), followed by midsize sedans (14.7) and subcompacts (11.6). It should be noted that last year’s overall sales skewed heavily toward utility segments, with just 32 percent of new sales in passenger car segments.

“The youngest new vehicle buyers tend to have less money than older folks, so it’s no surprise they overwhelmingly shop cars rather than more expensive utilities or trucks,” said Travell. “Gen Z shoppers are driven largely by financial constraints, and car segment offerings tend to be most affordable.”

Also of interest, is Ford research that indicates Generation Y (Millennials) is really a bridge between Generations X and Z.

“Younger millennial buyers, ages 22 to 25 or so, tend to behave like their younger Gen Z counterparts, whereas older Millennials, roughly 26 to 35 years old, act more like Generation X when it comes to vehicle shopping behaviors,” said Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst.