Millennials drive new cars sales in the US

February 10, 2017

Following the Great Recession, the US new car market has experienced consistent growth for six straight years*. New research from Mintel on new cars in the US reveals that new car sales are forecast to continue this trajectory, increasing an estimated 4.4 percent over 2016 to 18.46 million units sold by 2017, due in large part to American Millennials**.

15% of Millennial car buyers in the US plan to drive for a ride-share service
According to Mintel research, Millennials entering the new car market are more likely (84 percent) to consider a new car for their next vehicle than car buyers overall (77 percent). What’s more, the younger generation may be looking to get more bang for their buck as 15 percent of Millennial car buyers in the US plan to drive for a ride-share service, compared to just nine percent overall.

The Millennial generation is also fueling interest in tech-savvy features as more than two in five (41 percent) Millennial car buyers say that they are interested in the latest technology innovations in their next vehicle, compared to just 38 percent overall. Indeed, seven in 10 (70 percent) Millennials who plan to purchase a vehicle within the next three years say that they are willing to pay extra for an infotainment system in their next vehicle, as compared to 52 percent overall and just three in 10 (30 percent) Baby Boomers***.

“The biggest opportunity for the US new car market is the Millennial generation as they are the largest consumer demographic in the US and are hitting life stages often associated with a car purchase, such as receiving a promotion, getting married or having a child. What’s more, as new cars get more expensive, the emergence of ride-sharing has provided consumers the opportunity to leverage their new vehicle as a way to pay for it,” said Buddy Lo, Automotive Analyst at Mintel. “Connecting with car shoppers in a mobile-friendly format, as well as showcasing features that integrate phones with their car can win over Millennials seeking convenience and utility.”

Continuing a trend from recent years, the SUV and crossover segment is finding success, making up 36 percent of vehicle sales in 2016****. Women in particular are fueling interest in the segment as two thirds (63 percent) say they are considering an SUV/crossover for their next vehicle purchase, compared to 57 percent of car buyers overall. Mothers are also playing a significant role in the SUV boom, with 68 percent of moms interested in an SUV or crossover, compared to 59 percent of women without children.

“Cheap gas prices are a significant factor in why consumers are opting for additional cargo space and utility over better gas mileage as consumer preference shifts to slightly larger, more practical SUVs and crossovers. Interest from female consumers is helping drive sales in this segment and brands that tailor messaging to speak to the unique needs of America’s female drivers should see continued success in the marketplace,” continued Lo.

With a new car being an expensive purchase for most, consumers who plan to purchase a new vehicle in the next three years are more likely to say features like reliability (61 percent) and warranty (42 percent) are the most appealing part of a new car purchase.

However, the host of new, cutting-edge automotive features that provide additional safety are also appealing to new car buyers as 42 percent say they want the latest safety innovations. Indeed, safety is paramount for the majority of new car buying Americans with nearly three quarters (74 percent) saying they would be willing to pay more for a rear view camera and for side view/blind spot assist (72 percent). New car consumers would also be willing to spend more for a 5-star safety rating (71 percent), all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive (66 percent), and roadside assistance (60 percent).

“In 2017, advances in technology that provide a better overall experience as well as enhances safety will be a compelling driver for consumers in their car shopping process. Connectivity will be key, as consumers overwhelmingly agree using a phone while driving is dangerous, so seamless connectivity will provide not only provide a better experience, but improve safety, as well. Safety features like lane keeping assist, blind spot detection and collision avoidance systems will draw consumers to the lot,” concluded Lo.

*Six years beginning in 2009
**Mintel defines Millennials as those aged 22-39 in 2016
***Mintel defines Baby Boomers as those aged 52-70 in 2016
****Through July 2016

Press copies of Mintel’s New Cars US 2016 report and interviews with Buddy Lo, Automotive Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel’s team of global category analysts.

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