Younger market a challenge to automakers

Jan. 17, 2011 at 3:22 PM
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DETROIT, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- U.S automakers are trying to figure out how to reach a younger market buffeted by issues of the wallet in a post-recession market, an analyst says.

Even though Americans likely will buy a million more new cars in 2011 than the 11.6 million vehicles they bought in last year, recovery in the industry will be challenging because of other products vying for the youth market's attention, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"Many young people care more about buying the latest smartphone ... than getting their driver's license," Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales in the United States, said. "That's a serious problem we need to address."

A robust auto sales recovery will depend on sustainable job creation, easier access to credit and attractive and affordable vehicles, analysts said. Marketing researcher R.L. Polk says tens of thousands of people have driven their old wheels to the edge of the vehicle's life, noting the average age of a vehicle on the road is more than 10 years old.

The job market also clouds the auto market's recovery, the Free Press reported. U.S. Labor Department data indicate 36 percent of workers who lost one job between 2007 and 2009 eventually found another one, but are earning at least 20 percent less.

"The needs have changed. You need basic transportation and more economical vehicles as the price of gas goes up," said Don Esmond, senior vice president for Toyota Motor Sales.

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