Generation Z. Alas, the third in a series of unnamed generations. And that letter–Z–casts a pall over these youngsters. Z is final. Z is for zombie. Zombies are apocalyptic. And now Z is the designation for a coterie with an 8-second attention span staring into computer screens all day, right?
Not necessarily. A closer look reveals some encouraging news–as it usually does. Kelley Blue Book recently released a study that overturns one aspect of Generation Z’s reputation. Generation Z wants to own cars, and this is good not only for car manufacturers and recyclers, but for what it implies about the mindset of the newest generation.
Mindsets are shaped partly by circumstances. Generation Z started in the late 90s, which makes the oldest of them about 17. The Great Recession happened between late 2007 to mid 2009, when the oldest of Generation Z was about eight. This means that millions of children age 8 and younger back in 2007, 2008, and 2009 were growing up in the midst of trying times. They were were seeing their parents lose their jobs, and they were hearing alarming things on the news. As a result, they were cutting a worldview with large measures financial instability, anxiety for the future, and the weakness of the entitlement posture.
Such gloomy impressions can harm a person, but in the case of Generation Z, the turmoil of their formative years seems to be bearing good fruit as members of Z set a premium on stability, independence, forethought, and taking control of their future.
Enter the automobile, a staple of American life that Generation Z, unlike Millennials, sees as the implement to achieve the kind of prosperity they propose to themselves. 92 percent of Generation Z plan to own a vehicle. 97 percent plan to get their license. The majority of Generation Z said they would give up social media (72%) and new clothes (63%) for one year to own a car.
Their taste in cars too fits their profile. They rate style lower than do Millennials and have less interest in high lines. Though a mere 23% rated brand as important, they do have their favorite brands. Generation Z favors workaday machines, citing Ford, Chevrolet, and Honda as their favorites because they are “traditional, practical, and trusted.” Tesla, the cutting-edge, environmentally friendly, and expensive brand came in last at 1%.
In fact, environmental friendliness takes a back seat to other concerns. The practical Zs are guided by cost, 77% rating purchase price as the top priority while only 27% rated environmental friendliness as the chief concern. Though 43% said they liked environmentally friendly cars, it was gas savings rather than impact on the environment the determined their choice.
Along with cost, safety is a big concern. 43 percent of Generation Z highly value safety in a car, a significant increase from teenage Millennials (25 percent) and a drastic increase from teenage Generation Xers (11 percent). Safety features beat out in-car entertainment features (35 percent) among Generation Z. Not bad for a fourteen year-old.
The safety concerns of Generation Z drive their view of autonomous vehicles. 54 percent like autonomous vehicles and 47 percent want a majority of cars in the next ten years to drive themselves. When asked why they like autonomous vehicles, 61 percent said that such vehicles will make roads safer.
For those trying to sell a car to a member of Generation Z, it would be well to remember where they come from. They will be more cautious, more realistic, and more practical than Millennials. And it would be wise to remember their potential. Their buying power is promising. In 2020 they will make 40% of the population and will have 3.2 trillion dollars to spend, more than the GDP of some countries. So, while car manufacturers had been worried about future sales, and elders had been worried about the future of humanity, the Kelley Blue Book study is a breath of invigorating air.