Automakers aim at the under-30 market for obvious reasons: Catch a buyer early, and maybe win a repeat customer for life.
That's why some car companies are trying to make it easier for new buyers to finance or lease vehicles. They also are building programs that help them communicate better with this group.
'It's nice to sell cars, but it's nice to sell cars to young people because they continue to buy your brand,' says Steve Wagg, brand manager for the Chevrolet Cavalier. He says nearly 70 percent of young people who drive Cavaliers buy another General Motors vehicle when looking for another new car, and about 40 percent buy another Cavalier.
Financing is often a big issue for first-time buyers, so automakers roll out the special treatment. Ford Motor Co., for example, gives new college grads a $400 cash bonus and ignores the fact that they may have been employed or living somewhere for only a short time.
'We realize they won't have the (financial) stability that a 40-year-old would have, so we have a different scoring model for buyers 27 and under,' says Tim Berryman, marketing analyst for Ford Credit's youth program.
Ford even helps young people who don't yet have the funds to purchase a new vehicle. Its Credit Drives America program puts Ford Credit financial specialists into 400 high schools nationwide last year. The program teaches 11th- and 12th-graders what credit is, how to keep good credit and how to avoid credit mistakes. Credit Drives America brings people such as NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett, who races a Ford-sponsored car, into schools to talk about the importance of building a good credit record.
Chevrolet's Wagg says General Motors prefers an indirect approach to marketing to the younger generation such as showing the cars at concerts. 'Young people don't like in-your-face marketing,' he says. 'They just don't care for the pressure.'