DETROIT -- Here's a test to see if you're prepared for an auto industry ruled by edgy, hard-to-please millennial consumers.
Mobis, the Hyundai Group-affiliated auto parts giant, developed a technology that was shown last week during the SAE World Congress here: a rear-seat display screen that offers passengers an interactive city map.
So why would a car buyer want an interactive map in the back seat, away from the driver? The answer: He wouldn't. It's a trick question.
Many millennials don't want to buy a car at all, but they might summon Uber for a ride to dinner. And if the driver has no idea where the restaurant is, the passenger in the back seat can call it up on the map and shoot the destination to the driver's console screen.
The example illustrates the auto industry's challenge with millennials, generally those consumers ages 18 to 34. It's a demographic that has the industry reconsidering its approach to parts.
"You can't give those consumers everything they want, because we have to appeal to other demographics, too," said Joseph Steffey, an electronics engineer at Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center near Detroit, who presented the Mobis technology. "But we do need components that appeal to that young, more tech-savvy customer."
For fresh ideas, Toyota asked a team of Clemson University graduate students to design a concept crossover aimed at young consumers. Clemson displayed the concept, dubbed uBox, at the SAE show.
Though Toyota is unlikely to build it, the uBox offers a composite picture of what young people might want in an affordable vehicle, said Johnell Brooks, a Clemson associate professor who helped direct the project.
Inside, the uBox seats have flip-up desk surfaces and can be arranged to create a workspace, helpful for young people considering self-employment. The uBox also has 110-volt plugs inside and out, useful for a proprietor who travels to job sites where power tools or electric equipment might be used.
Carbon fiber interior trim pieces are left unpainted. "This is a generation of people who have expressed a desire for natural looks, for what's real and not decorative," Brooks said.
The car's inexpensive exterior body panels can be easily replaced through 3-D printing, allowing expressive car owners to share designs for replacement parts.