Auto industry split between Gen X and Gen Y - Metro US

Auto industry split between Gen X and Gen Y

I was trolling through the list of list of super-new vehicles that will be at the upcoming auto show in Toronto, and two caught my eye — the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible and the 2012 Hyundai Veloster.

Both look fantastic.

But these new debuts once again reinforce how two major demographic groups are yanking the chains of the automakers in different directions.

Camaro’s target audience is obviously the baby-boom generation. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

Following the baby boom is Generation X, a much smaller crowd. But Generation Y, also referred to as, “The Millennial Generation,” and/or, “The Echo Boom,” is actually a very sizeable cohort.

With more and more baby-boom drivers gradually moving on to more non-driving activities, like shuffling to the washroom every 15 minutes, Gen Y-ers are poised to be the “driving force” in the market.

But just not yet. Baby boomers are still, by far, the largest group out there, and will continue to be, even after 2013, when most of them will be 60 years or older.

Not only are there fewer Gen-Y people, they aren’t as uniformly “car crazy” as their elders; many aren’t interested in driving at all, and many hold off getting cars and/or their licenses until their twenties. But among them are those who love their vehicles just as much as any previous generation.

The Hyundai Veloster is aimed squarely at Gen-Y folks. This “three-door” sports coupe will compete directly against Mini Cooper, Honda CR-Z, and Scion tC. The tC is new to Canada, but in the U.S., where it has been sold for a few years now, it has the distinction of attracting the youngest owners (medium age 24 years) of any nameplate on the market.

The original Camaro followed Ford Mustang into the so-called “Pony Car” segment, which would also ultimately include Firebird, Challenger, Barracuda, Javelin, AMX, and Cougar. Back in their heyday, these cars made a splash because they were lighter and faster and better looking than family sedans. In other words, they were the “young person’s ride” — like the Veloster is now.

But in 2011, these pony cars are strictly a middle-aged person’s proposition, and only for those with certain aesthetic sensibilities and generous credit lines.

It’s obvious the Veloster and other modern sports coupes do a way better job crossing over to other demographics. They’re lighter, more space and fuel efficient, and more affordable. So let’s keep them coming, and maybe ease off a bit on the nostalgia trip.

By the way, about 6,000 people in Canada are now over the age of 100. The number of people expected to become “Centenarians” over the next 20 years is expected to triple. They are the fastest growing demographic age group in the country. I have no idea what that means for the auto landscape, except that you might have to wait longer for the pedestrian traffic to clear at certain crosswalks.

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