Speaking to Australian media in Detroit today, General Motors head of innovation, Warwick Stirling, said the only real difference between the behaviours of so-called millennials (those born between 1982 and approximately the early 2000s) is that although they still make all the traditional life decisions, they get there later than past generations.
“Consumers are changing, we have sort of alluded to that, people say millennials don’t buy cars? Or don’t want to buy a car? I am not sure that's 100 per cent true.” Stirling said.
“When we interview millennials they always say 'it’s not me, it’s those other millennials'. So, hold on, where are these millennials that don’t want to buy a car? It’s true that if they are living in a downtown congested area, they can get away without a car, move around without a car, but as soon as you change - like [have] kids…”
Given that millennials tend to stay at home longer, the data also shows they get their licence and have kids later and get married at a later date than previous generations, which also affects their attitude to personal mobility.
“We certainly see that there is a life stage difference, millennials are having kids older, getting married older, but once they have kids and dogs, they tend to pivot from ride sharing and show more propensity to buy a car.”
Each year, General Motors conducts a detailed research, surveying around 1000-6000 people all around the world to try and understand changing consumer behaviours.
“It’s a myth about millennials not wanting to buy cars, it is sort of a popular press myth but we don’t see it necessarily playing out that way.
“They want to own cars but they are also taking a portion of their trips with ride-sharing. Yes, there are folks who live downtown who don’t need a car, downtown Sydney or Melbourne - car parking is expensive, you can get away without a car - but that is very niche.”
As far as General Motors is concerned, owning a car is still the cheapest mode of transport, even when compared to ride-sharing systems such as Uber, with Stirling pointing out that even with the enormous success of ride-sharing apps, the personal mobility space is still enormous.
“We also see it [ride sharing] growing very rapidly, 0.1 per cent of vehicle miles traveled is ride-sharing (in the USA). Personal cars account for 83-84 per cent of all miles traveled,” he said.
The internal data on younger buyers comes at a good time, as GM Holden’s efforts to change its brand image and perception to better target millennials is set to continue for the coming years.