As the maker of Millennials’ favorite entry-level luxury car prepares to turn 30, it seems appropriate to take a look at the brands most popular with the under-35 crowd right now.
Acura, Honda’s luxury arm, is ringing in its 30th birthday this week with an ad campaign, “30 Years Young,” narrated by actor Michael B. Jordan, who also turns 30 this year. Playing up its youth appeal, Acura is emphasizing that its ILX sedan is the most popular luxury sub-compact among millennials, trumping the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz CLA, and BMW i3, among others. (That’s measured by millennial buyers as a percentage of model sales, not volume.)
The model with the highest mix of millennial buyers overall is the Subaru WRX. Just over a quarter of its buyers are aged 18 to 34. “The WRX’s appeal is a combination of reasonable price, exceptional performance, and the cache of the Subaru brand,” said Thomas Libby, an analyst at IHS Automotive, which tracks retail registration by demographic. “Subaru continues to ride a wave of popularity industry-wide and clearly a young buyer is aware of that and influenced by that.”
From a brand perspective, Dodge had the highest share of retail registrations as a percentage of sales among millennial buyers last year, with 15.8% of its sales going to buyers 18 to 34, according to IHS Automotive. Mitsubishi and Mazda followed, with younger buyers accounting for 15.3% and 15.2% of brand sales, respectively. At Volkswagen, 14% of sales went to millennials. Jeep was the fifth-most popular brand with millennials, with 13.4% of its sales made to buyers under 35.
Millennials are an important demographic to all carmakers, as they seek a younger and larger customer base. But researchers are finding that this group takes a more practical approach to buying cars, eschewing conspicuous consumption in favor of reliability. “Millennials are not a risk-taking generation, and the recession has majorly impacted their views of luxury and conspicuous consumption,” said MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer at Ypulse, a research firm studying young consumers. “It's not as appealing to them as it was to previous generations to own a car made to ‘show off.’”
That spells a tough slog for automakers. More than half of 13- to 33-year-olds surveyed by YPulse who plan to buy a car in the future said that they would get one used. More than two-thirds said they would rather have a one-month trip around the world than a brand new, fully-loaded luxury car.