MTV Says Its Study Debunks 5 Myths About Millennials and Cars

The generation that supposedly disdains car ownership may be misunderstood.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

January 25, 2015

3 Min Read
Young people apparently like cars after all research indicates
Young people apparently like cars after all, research indicates.

SAN FRANCISCO – Millennials may like cars after all.

At least that’s what a MTV survey says. Its researchers say the results debunk five myths about people, ages 18 to 34, and their supposed indifference to car ownership.

The MTV conclusion contrasts with what some trend watchers have claimed: Millennials, a.k.a. Generation Yers, seem put off by cars, and so don't buy them.

The idea of such consumer standoffishness jarred the auto industry, seeing as Millennials represent 77 million of the U.S. population.

But researchers for MTV, a Viacom-owned cable station with youthful programming, point to different times, situations and attitudes.

They liken the early reluctance to enter the car market as having more to do with economics than psychographics. Millennials who are five and six years older than they were during the recession now buy.

“The economy is better now, they’re older, they have jobs and they have the financial means,” Berj Kazanjian, senior vice president-ad sales research at MTV, says at a press conference here during the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention. “The recession had an impact on them.”

MTV’s research involved 3,610 Millennials, 400 Gen Xers and 403 Baby Boomers. The study included field work, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

MTV says its research is myth-busting in these ways:

Myth No.1: Millennials don’t drive.

Truth: Even with today’s growing availability of transportation options, driving still is the Millennials’ go-to choice. Eighty percent of them get around by car, (even if it’s their parents’ car) versus 8% who walk, 8% who take public transportation, 2% who bike and 1% who use car services.

Myth No.2: Millennials lack interest in getting a driver’s license.

Truth: Strict state laws are holding teens back, as they now have driving restrictions placed on them that other generations didn’t. All 50 states have imposed some form of license restrictions, ranging from waiting periods to limited driving hours.

Myth No.3: Millennials dislike cars and find them unessential.

Truth: Millennials not only like cars, they’re passionate about them. The study says 70% of surveyed Gen Yers enjoy driving. That compares with 58% of Boomers and 66% of Gen Xers.

Myth No.4: Millennials are foregoing the purchase of cars and other big-ticket items.

Truth: With a stronger economy and more young people working, Millennials are buying cars or looking to buy them. Eighty percent of them see cars as the one big-ticket item people of their age purchase.

Myth No.5: Millennials one true love is technology, especially their phones, and cars can’t compete for their attention.

Truth: Unlike previous generations, Millennials see both cars and cellphones as necessary for social connections. Ninety-two percent say a smartphone doesn’t replace the need for a car.

Millennials present advertising opportunities for automakers, the MTV researchers tell journalists at the press conference.

“The auto industry could do better” by creating ads that directly appeal to Gen Yers through the likes of storytelling and pop-culture music, says Maureen Healy, vice president-research. “Millennials are up for grabs. They don’t prefer one auto brand over another.”

It seems like more auto advertising aimed at Millennials would also present ad-selling opportunities for MTV because of its youthful viewership.

But Kazanjian tells WardsAuto: “It’s not an issue. We already have fairly robust auto advertising.”

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