Car makers to today’s youth: “Come back please. We’re begging you.”

Vauxhall Adam dashboard publicity shot

This is the Vauxhall Adam. As you can see, it’s designed to impress very young people.

About 13, I’d say.

The car makers have ‘lost’ a generation: the Facebook-and-tuition-fees crowd, now in their 20s, who feel they don’t particularly need, and really can’t afford, a car.

It’s worse than that for the car makers. Cars are seriously uncool as far as bright twentysomethings are concerned.

That’s partly because car advertising simply followed the money up through the age brackets as the baby boomers got older.

Now the car makers have suddenly discovered that they’ve been chasing a disappearing demographic up a cul de sac while largely ignoring the follow-on generation.

They are the young people who are beginning to realise that they’ve been dumped with paying for overpriced university ‘educations’ out of mediocre pay packets for decades to come.


Moreover, the vast financial bubbles of the last 20 years defined the older generation’s lifestyle and retirement expectations while simultaneously setting up the inevitable crash whose aftermath is destroying the savings and pension pots that were supposed to fulfil them.

Credit is also inexorably disappearing. This hasn’t affected car buyers much so far, since dealer finance is still readily available to most customers. But it is affecting the main drain on young people’s incomes — housing costs — as would-be home owners spend their 20s and early 30s struggling to amass the 25%-30% deposit on that overpriced first time buy.

Anything that reduces the pain of saving up a massive deposit is worth trying – and that includes eschewing a car that sits around unused 95% of the time.

Middle aged dweebs

On top of all that, the bunch of middle-aged dweebs who act up to entertain 10-year-old viewers of Top Gear really does put the icing on the cake of driving’s uncoolness.

Hence the spreading rash of supplicatory youth-targeted car ads on TV: usually featuring mates or couples finding joy as the ad’s subject carries them effortlessly through a CGI-ed urban dreamscape mysteriously devoid of traffic – or any other sign of street life for that matter.

Of course the idea is that by buying the car they’ll also be buying the feeling, the freedom, the escape from reality.

The same promise under girds sales of apps and games. But they cost forty quid at most, while the Adam is expected to set its young owners back between £11,000 and £17,000. And quite a lot more if they go for some of the thousands of ‘personalisation combinations’ on offer.

Maybe the car makers’ market research tells them that young people expect that their parents will stump up the moolah they’ll need to support the lifestyle choice formerly known as paying through the nose for a car.

Missing the big deal

If so, they’ve missed the big deal, which is that the baby boomers don’t have the money. In fact the forebears of today’s twentysomethings seriously expect the children to sacrifice everything to keep the parents in the unsustainable style to which they’ve become accustomed.

Something has gotta give and, looking at car ownership and use trends, it’s going to give way under the traditional car market model.

The ads for the Adam will have to be really appealing to the 13-year-olds if Vauxhall hope to shift any cars to them in 10 years’ time.

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