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Chevrolet Tries to Buddy Up to Millennials

Posted by Dale Buss on April 11, 2012 03:08 PM

General Motors has been learning some sobering facts about Millennial (non-) car-buyers from its collaboration with MTV Scratch. But the executive in charge of getting a bearing on Generation Y for America's largest automaker insists that the Chevrolet brand is going to figure out how to appeal to twenty-somethings better than any of its competitors.

"We're committed to getting to know them better than anyone and giving them the products they want, as well as ones that are rational and functional to meet their needs," John McFarland, GM's manager of global strategic marketing, told brandchannel. "So we're going to win, long-term."

McFarland came to GM last year from Procter & Gamble just to helm this effort. Among his early moves was to notch an agreement with Scratch, the consulting arm of Viacom's MTV network, to help GM understand how to market better to a generation that now comprises about 40% of today's potential car-buying public -- but who are measurably less excited than their forebears about new cars and even about driving. 

Chevy is encouraged by its recent survey with Scratch that found 69% of Millennials believe buying a car "is a key milestone in becoming an adult." And 32% said they are "interested in cars," according to a GM news release.

Yet McFarland acknowledged that, at best, many Millennials are postponing car purchases just as they're postponing marriage. "Right now the tradeoffs we're asking them to make [to buy a vehicle] just aren't hitting the sweet spot. We're not giving them exactly what they want and nothing more. The value equation is a bit off."

Besides the MTV Scratch affiliation, Chevy is focusing on the importance of a $20,000 price point for Millennial consumers and tackling the question of on-board connectivity: how much is too much, and how do vehicle infotainment systems relate to smart phones and other devices brought in from the outside?

GM also acknowledges that car sharing is popular with more Millennials. It has invested in one such service, RelayRides, to help figure it out. "Historically, we've looked at [car sharing] as a threat to our business model," McFarland said. ""But now we're trying to see how it's another opportunity for us to engage and add value for these consumers in a way that's relevant."

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