business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Interesting piece in the New York Times about how "millennials were presumed to dislike cars because - thanks to alternatives like Uber, Lyft and helicopter parents - they often delayed getting a driver’s license. Financially strained with school loans, difficult job markets (the Great Recession and the just-now-fading pandemic set back careers) and an average new-vehicle cost of $38,000, they delayed car-buying even longer."

But it ends up, the Times writes, that maybe one of the things they really hate is buying cars, and the inherent friction that the experience represents.

"In 2020," the Times reports, "millennials bought more new cars than any other age group, accounting for 32 percent of total new-car sales, edging out baby boomers for the first time, according to the market research firm J.D. Power. And those millennials were nearly twice as likely as boomers to shop for and buy a vehicle — new or used — entirely online, according to Cars.com, which outfits dealers with technology for online sales."

The bottom line:  "Millennial financial clout, disdain for dealerships and the pandemic have converged to shift how cars are sold, which may benefit car buyers and dealerships alike beyond the pandemic."

Other changes that have taken place include Tesla's essentially sidestepping the traditional dealership model by owning its showrooms directly;  in states where that was not allowed, it simply had people take possession of their new vehicles in a neighboring state.

The automobile industry has to come to grips with these changes - in addition to changing the ways in which it makes cars, it has to understand that a growing percentage of the population simply does not want to deal with traditional methods of buying cars.  That group is going to look for alternatives … and will favor the companies that offer them.

I may not be a millennial (in "Your Views" this morning, you'll see that one MNB reader refers to me as a "liberal coastal boomer whining in his rose'), but I totally get this.  When I bought my Mustang five years ago, the absolutely worst part of the experience was the dealership … enough so that I will put off replacing it until I can figure out how to circumvent that process.

By the way … this isn't exactly the same thing, but I think it is a similar issue that car companies ought to address.  I don't understand why, in 2021, people are not able to get the cars they want in any color they want - even colors not part of the regular palette offered by car companies.  If I wanted to buy a new Mustang in dark green, for example, I can't do it.  No way.  But you'd think that would be a relatively easy thing for Ford to offer - it might cost a little more and take a little longer, and they might even require picking it up at the factory (that would be cool, actually!).

This is the kind of service and customization, along with a disruption of the traditional shopping experience, that people want.

Now, here is the Eye-Opening question that I want to ask MNB readers:

Are there components of your customer experience that are equally out of touch with consumer demands?  Are there places that impose friction on the experience rather than alleviating it?  

Actually, I'll answer that question for you:

There are.

Which leads to two more important questions:

1.  What are you doing to identify these issues?

2.  What are you actively doing to eliminate them?