JAMES FRANEY

Is Starbucks more upscale than BMW?

James Franey is a special correspondent for Automotive News EuropeJames Franey is a special correspondent for Automotive News Europe
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Are upscale carmakers like BMW or Mercedes still the benchmark for premium? It depends how old you are.

There's a “generational” split emerging that will redefine what it means to be premium, says Hyundai Europe Vice President Allan Rushforth, 50, who has worked for BMW and Audi.

“What's premium for a 16-25 year-old is different than for somebody my age,” Rushforth says, citing Apple, Amazon and Starbucks as brands that young people might consider upscale.

“The sector is aware the change is happening. It's just that we don't understand it at the moment,” he says, adding: “The industry is full of people like me, not people like my son.”

General Motor's Opel/Vauxhall division hopes to profit from the trend with its new city car, codenamed Junior.

The minicar, which goes on sale in 2013, will be “an iPod on wheels,” says Alain Visser, the carmaker's head of sales and marketing, who compares the model to the cult hit Fiat 500.

Opel CEO Nick Reilly adds: “The Junior will be targeted at young people who don't associate a car's size with status. It will have the latest infotainment systems and good fuel economy to make it environmentally friendly. For that, buyers will pay a little more.”

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