ORLANDO -- Auto lenders are learning that hip teens and 20-something consumers aren't really so hip, except in how they communicate.
In fact, young buyers on average have fairly traditional values toward purchases in general and cars in particular, said Scott Hess, vice president of insights for the Chicago market research firm TRU.
"These guys are practical," Hess said. "When they consider something, their question is if this thing practically improves things so that they can be more effective at doing something. That's not hip and cool, but effective and savvy."
As a result, lenders must devise new ways to do business with young vehicle buyers.
Last month Hess and executives from CarMax Inc., Mercedes-Benz Financial, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. and Toyota Financial Services took part in the panel "The Future: Embracing the New Hip Customer" at the American Financial Services Association Vehicle Finance Conference & Exposition here.
Surprisingly, TRU research shows that shoppers in their teens and 20s put a practical attribute, fuel economy, at No. 1 on their list of purchase considerations -- ahead of topics that are often associated with young buyers, such as environmental friendliness or the need to own the "latest and greatest" item, Hess said.
"It's cool to be a smart consumer," he added.
Products such as the Nissan Cube and Toyota's Scion brand are aimed squarely at young buyers. Scion owners have the youngest average age in the industry at 38, said Karen Ideno, chief marketing officer at Toyota Financial Services. She said Scion has visited college campuses to dole out free coffee and Scion information as part of its marketing efforts.