Generation Z has the power to make or break the auto industry – here’s why

Possessing a burning motivation to make the world a better place, Gen Z are and will be a force to be reckoned with, writes Andy Palmer

Tuesday 29 December 2020 11:31 GMT
Workers at a Nissan car plant in Sunderland
Workers at a Nissan car plant in Sunderland (PA)

The automotive industry has a big headache looming. No, not just Brexit, nor the coronavirus pandemic – both of which can and will be resolved over time and with the proper amount of strategic planning. The question that will be keeping automotive executives up at night is how do they sell their cars to Generation Z; those succeeding Millennials and born between the late 1990s and 2000s.

While the need to make cars appealing to fresh audiences isn’t new, Gen Z pose a unique challenge. Throughout the generations, we’ve seen distinct differences in the way demographic cohorts view automobiles. For the baby boomers, cars represented a route towards post-war prosperity, with the VW Beetle becoming a cultural and generational icon in the 1960s and 1970s. 

For Generation X, they viewed cars as the ultimate status symbols, having entered their economic zenith in Margaret Thatcher’s era of yuppies and flashy excess. Millennials were a trickier sell, but were ultimately attracted to cheaper, smaller and urban-friendly vehicles to suit their lifestyles and budgets. But Gen Z are different.

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