Pontiac Aztek gains traction with millennials from 'Breaking Bad' role

The Pontiac Aztek's popularity is resonating with millennials in part because of it role in the hit TV drama “Breaking Bad.”

Several discontinued vehicle models, including the Pontiac Aztek -- well known for its spot atop many lists of the ugliest vehicles ever and for its role in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” TV series -- are finding new life on the used-car market thanks to millennial buyers, an Edmunds.com analysis found.

The Dodge Magnum station wagon, which Chrysler discontinued in 2008, had the highest rate of millennial car buyers of any used vehicle this year through June, an Edmunds study of Polk data released today showed. About 28 percent of Magnum buyers were between ages 18 and 34, well above the industry average of 17 percent.

Other discontinued vehicles, including the Aztek (26 percent), Chrysler Pacifica (27 percent) and Chevrolet TrailBlazer (26 percent), also had a high rate of millennial sales. In fact, six of the top 10 used-vehicle models with the highest rate of millennial sales are no longer in production, Edmunds said.

“Millennials are more practical used-car shoppers than we might otherwise credit them,” Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo said in a news release. “They may not go into the shopping process targeting these lesser-known vehicles, but when they see how their price tags stack up against other, better-known vehicles, they suddenly become a lot more attractive.”

Young people find themselves lured to the used passenger van segment more than any other, as about 20 percent of used van purchases this year through June were by millennials, the data showed. That’s compared with 17 percent of used sedans and 16 percent of used coupes.

In an interview, Acevedo said the passenger van segment’s popularity among young people “comes back to making a pragmatic, needs-based purchase.” He said vans can provide extra space for a young family and, like the other vehicles on the list, can often provide value after having depreciated.

“It’s a really diverse set of vehicles, but value is very much the big factor,” Acevedo said.

The Aztek, despite getting panned for its looks, has proved popular among millennials. The Aztek had the sixth-highest share of millennial buyers of any car this year through June and has been among the 10 vehicles with the highest millennial share in four of the last five years.

Acevedo credits the Aztek’s popularity in part to its role in the hit TV drama “Breaking Bad,” in which chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook Walter White (Bryan Cranston) drove one for much of the show’s five-season run.

Acevedo said: “It’s one of those quirky purchases that we’re coming to see more of with this generation.”

Meanwhile, convertibles boast the smallest share of millennial used car buyers this year through June at 8.4 percent, by far the smallest share among segment types.

The convertibles segment joins pickups (16 percent), station wagons (16 percent), coupes (16 percent) and vans (13 percent) among segments that fall below the industry average for millennials’ share of used car sales. 

You can reach John Irwin at jirwin@crain.com -- Follow John on Twitter: @JohnDIrwin

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