Darn kids these days. They’re just not buying cars anymore. Be very concerned, automakers—the Millenials that are underemployed and overburdened these days just don’t see it in them to spring for zero-percent-financing for a new Kia Forte Koup, much less a $45,970 Acura TL. This, understandably, is bad news for Acura. And the company is banking on the smaller ILX that slots in neatly underneath the TSX as Gen-Y bait; as a way for kids to be “introduced to the Acura brand,” says the company.
How confident is Acura on hedging their bets on today’s youth? It believes that with the ILX, its 2012 sales will rocket by 46 percent. The ILX should garner enough attention from the young to boost sales to 180,000 models this year—up from 123,299 last year.
Vice President of Acura Jeff Conrad spoke at the ILX launch that we recently attended—expect a first drive review of the ILX soon—where he noted the trend that Gen Y, millenials, lousy kids, what have you, just aren’t buying cars anymore. As they flock to trendy urban centers at a rate higher than any prior generation, they’re eschewing cars for public transportation, fuzzy dice for bus passes. No longer the baby boomers, the generation that holds the most sway over corporate profits also holds less emphasis on the ritual of earning a driver’s license as a rite of passage.
How to attract young people to your brand then, says Acura? The ILX, said Conrad, was designed precisely for urban maneuverability; hence, the inclusion of the hybrid model. The entire ILX lineup starts at $27,000, and comes with standard Pandora integration, text messaging, and available Tech packages including the excellent ELS digital sound system. And if there’s anything that Gen Y loves, it’s gadgets. That’s what we’re told, anyway.
Acura says that the baby boomers, the segment that all luxury automakers have been targeting for the past twenty years, are still key to the company’s growth—they have “singlehandedly defined product placement for the past four decades,” said Conrad. But the millennials are growing. This year, their population is slated to equal that of the baby boomers: 71 million trendy, hat-wearing hipsters across America, or 25 percent of the American population. That’s a lot of spending power. That’s something any automaker needs to, is struggling with, or failing miserably at tapping into.
Will it work? Our recent ILX presentation was loaded with “Gen-Y” marketing buzzwords, and if this member of the aforementioned generation has anything to say, it’s that Gen-Y hates being marketed to. It remains to see whether the ILX can capture the wallets of young people, without silly stunts, sports endorsements, or the musical styling of indie-rock darlings—but Acura has set itself a lofty goal nonetheless.