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MY Generation: Heard Loud and Clear

Published June 22, 2012

GM and GM Financial help Gen Y get into the driver's seat

They're known as Millennials, Generation Next or Echo Boomers – the kids of Baby Boomers who are all grown up – and their increase in numbers in the U.S. parallels their parents' generation. While experts differ on the actual start date of Generation Y, they are typically considered to be 19 to 31 years old in 2012; they are nearly 80 million strong; and, they comprise more than 20 percent of the U.S. population.

Programs and products are now changing or being developed to include this new breed of consumer and potential employee.

Driving change in automobiles

Gen Y is set to become one of the biggest domestic automobile-buying market segments and the largest consumer segment since the Baby Boomers. According to the third annual "Automotive Generation Y Survey" recently conducted by Deloitte LLP, Gen Y will account for 40 percent of the car buying population beginning this year, and according to survey participants, 54 percent say they anticipate replacing their current vehicle over the next two years.

So, what does this generation want when shopping for a vehicle? "Cockpit" technology, or connected cars, is a leading differentiator for Gen Y when considering and purchasing a vehicle. These individuals want their personal technology, such as mobile messaging and connectivity to portable music players, integrated with their driving experience. According to the Deloitte study, it must be seamlessly integrated and connect to their lives outside of the vehicle.

Manufacturers are listening. The Chevy Volt, GM's second generation "connected vehicle" was a hit at this year's South by Southwest show in Austin, Texas, a popular gathering of all things cool and forward-looking in interactive technology, film and music. The electric vehicle featured modified Galaxy Tab tablet computers for backseat passengers that are capable of wirelessly streaming movies and other content from sources such as Netflix, Hulu or recorded DVR programs. Furthermore, GM's OnStar subsidiary is discussing cloud-connected cars with developers. Cloud computing is the ability for users to access, manage and share their information from many online sources using only one device. And, this is just the beginning…

GM recently partnered with Ross Martin, an executive at MTV Scratch, which helps connect brands with consumers and is behind the marketing strategy for the popular "Jersey Shore" television show. The intent is to help GM with the look and feel of its Chevrolet cars – which make up 70 percent of GM sales in the U.S. – as well as helping the dealership structure and dashboard technology. GM is targeting the more fuel-efficient models like the Sonic, Cruze and Spark.

Gen Y: By the numbers
  • More than 69% will purchase a used vehicle in the future
  • 48% expect to be driving the same brand of vehicle in five years
  • 71% agree the environment is an extremely important factor when purchasing a vehicle and more than 50% of respondents are willing to pay more for a vehicle that is either environmentally friendly or saves on energy costs
  • The shopping experience is three times more important than vehicle design for Gen Y
  • More than 82% of Gen Y consumers say they're excited to shop for a vehicle
  • More than 67% look for information on a vehicle brand or model on social networking sites, up from 25% in 2009
  • 52.4% say a bad experience with a dealer would cause them to never consider that brand again

Source: Deloitte LLP Third Annual Automotive Generation Y Survey, 2011. Survey respondents included 1,024 from Gen Y (average age, 23).

Building credit

The Gen Yers are starting to build credit by paying student loans, auto loans and mortgages, according to a February 2012 study by Experian on the generational gap on debt. Gen Yers carry the least amount of debt, but because they have less-lengthy credit histories, they also have lower credit scores, which can make it challenging to obtain financing.

GM Financial and GM offer a "Best In Class Alumni & Student Discount" for college students and graduates in the U.S. They simply visit gmcollegediscount.com where they can research GM vehicles and apply online for financing through GM Financial. Because we are an indirect lender, the approved application is sent to the dealer, who then contacts the customer and completes the sale.

Diving into a new talent pool

With Millennials making up approximately 40 percent of the car buying population, it's only fitting that they might also be outstanding employees in auto dealerships or the auto finance business. According to GM Financial's Lisa Northup, vice president of Human Resources, this generation comprises about one quarter of GM Financial's diverse pool of talent. The company has been steadily hiring since late 2011, including those from Gen Y.

Recruiting at colleges and universities is one of the traditional ways to reach this demographic. Lee Stone, GM Financial's vice president Credit Center Operations in Florida, recruits from about 10 colleges and universities across the state. "I look for candidates that will be good personality and culture fits for our team and for our dealer customers. I can teach the credit and underwriting skills, but I want to find the cream of the crop, those who are excited and full of fresh perspectives, who will also fit in with an already solid team we have built." So far, Stone has hired about 15 or more recent college graduates that make up his team of 50 employees.

It's no surprise social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are also places to recruit Gen Y candidates. The GM Careers site on Facebook is going strong with more than 6,500 "Likes" and GM Financial is currently developing a similar site. The career sites on Facebook - separate from corporate or product sites for most companies - provide visitors and prospective employees with information about the company and its products, its culture, career path options and current job openings.

The bottom line

In summary, it's critical for manufacturers, dealerships, financial institutions – and all companies for that matter – to ensure they're "connected" by creating Gen Y-friendly stores, product offerings and sales processes, lest they miss out on the opportunity to increase their bottom line from this important consumer demographic.

*As used in this article, "loans" include retail installment sale contracts originated by dealers and purchased by the company.

My Generation [image]

The Lost Generation, primarily known as the Generation of 1914 in Europe, is a term originating with Gertrude Stein to describe those who fought in World War I. The members of this generation were typically born between 1883 to 1900.

The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation, includes the veterans who fought in World War II. They were born from around 1901 through 1924, coming of age during the Great Depression.

The Silent Generation, born from 1925 through 1945, includes those who were too young to join the service during World War II. Many had fathers who served in World War I. Generally recognized as the children of the Great Depression.

The United States Census Bureau considers a Baby Boomer to be someone born following World War II, from 1946 up to 1964, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates.

Generation X, also known as the 13th Generation and the Baby Busters, is generally defined as those born after the baby boom ended. The term generally includes people born during all or part of the 1960s. According to some experts, 1961 is the starting point, though other sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, consider it to have started in the mid-1960s. It ends in late 1970s to early 1980s, usually not later than 1981 or 1982.

Generation Y (See article on this page.)

Generation Z, also known as Generation I, or Internet Generation, and Generation Text. The earliest birth is generally dated in the early 1990s

Generation AO, the Always-On Generation, was first used by Elon University professor Janna Quitney Anderson in 2012 to describe people born between the early 2000s and the 2020s whose lives have been influenced since their early childhood by connectivity afforded by easy access to people and the world's knowledge through the Internet.

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