DETROIT — Gen Y's affinity for hybrid vehicles could make it the generation that leads car buyers away from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, according to results of survey conducted by Deloitte LLP.
Deloitte's annual survey of Gen Y consumers and what they want in an automobile revealed that 59 percent of Gen Y respondents surveyed preferred an 'electrified vehicle' over any other type of car or truck. Gen Y consumers also heavily favored hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles (57 percent) over pure battery electric vehicles (2 percent), or vehicles with a traditional gasoline-only powertrain (37 percent).
Now in its fourth year, the survey polled 1,500 Gen Y, Gen X and baby boomer consumers in the United States, as well as 250 Gen Y consumers in China and 300 Gen Y consumers in Western Europe. Deloitte conducted the survey in September and October 2011, and defines Gen Y consumers as those ranging in age from 19 to 31.
Gen Y consumers may be the game-changers in the United States because, at nearly 80 million strong, they are one of the biggest domestic automobile buying market segments and the largest consumer segment since the baby boomers, said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and automotive practice leader at Deloitte LLP. According to his projections, one out of four new automobiles sold this year in the United States, or 40 percent of vehicles sold in the next 10 years, is expected to be purchased by a Gen Y consumer.
Giffi added that Gen Y consumers are drawn to hybrids for several reasons. Fuel efficiency is the most notable reason, as 89 percent of Gen Y consumers are considering buying a vehicle that gets better mileage. This is especially true when gasoline prices rise above $2.75 per gallon — the median price Gen Y consumers see as 'fair,' according to Deloitte.
Of those surveyed, 49 percent of Gen Y consumers were willing to pay an additional $300 for each mile per gallon of improvement they can get out of a hybrid — only $50 less than the $350 mile-per-gallon premium that Deloitte estimates a hybrid vehicle currently costs compared to an internal-combustion engine vehicle.
"Gen Y consumers also view hybrid technology as proven and reliable," Giffi said. "Almost six in 10 Gen Y respondents prefer a hybrid over any other type of vehicle, while a mere two in 100 prefer a pure battery electric vehicle — demonstrating that Gen Y is familiar and comfortable with hybrid technology, but not so much with battery-only technology."
The survey also showed that Gen Y respondents are married to the convenience of traditional gasoline-powered automobiles, strongly preferring powertrains that do not require plug-in recharging. Even with their overall preference for hybrids, Gen Y consumers still prefer a non-plug-in hybrid by a margin of more than two-to-one over a plug-in version.
"Gen Y consumers prefer automobiles that are an extension of their social-media and digital lifestyles," said Joe Vitale, global automotive sector leader for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. "Based on the survey, we found that auto manufacturers may have an opportunity to capitalize on Gen Y's connected lifestyle by developing innovative and low-cost personalization options for this powerful consumer segment.”
In-dash technology was the most important part of a vehicle's interior for 59 percent of Gen Y respondents, with 73 percent seeking touchscreen interfaces. Gen Y consumers also ranked smartphone applications as highly desirable in a new automobile (72 percent). Of those surveyed, 77 percent would like to buy additional accessories and upgrades for their automobiles on an ongoing basis. On average, Gen Y consumers were willing to spend more than $3,000 for hardware that delivers connectivity.
"Gen Y consumers clearly view their automobiles as more than just a way to get from point A to point B," Vitale said. "They see them as a way to stay connected around the clock, and they're willing to pay it."
Full survey findings from Deloitte’s survey will be released in February. For more information, visit www.deloitte.com.