Each generation can make or break industries, for example the rise in auto industry with baby boomers. Millennials were once a source of panic in the auto industry. Dubbed the “go nowhere” generation, they weren’t getting driver’s licenses, never mind buying cars. Headlines declared it was “The End of Car Culture.”
New data suggests at least some of that worry was misplaced. Millennials — especially the oldest ones — are these days buying cars in big numbers. They just had a late start.
Now the largest generation in the U.S., millennials bought 4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. last year, second only to the baby boomers, according to J.D. Power’s Power Information Network, which defines millennials as those between 21 and 38 in 2015. Millennials’ share of the new car market jumped to 28 percent. In the country’s biggest car market, California, millennials outpaced boomers for the first time.
Industry watchers say it’s been hard to get a read on millennials because the generation is big and diverse, ranging from recent college graduates to settled-down suburbanites. Automakers were also unsure about the impact of new transportation choices, like ZipCar and Uber, which helped millennials delay car buying. But as they got jobs and started families, millennials headed into car dealerships just like previous generations.
“This whole idea that they’re not going to need cars is absolutely ridiculous,” said Steven Szakaly, the chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association. “The new car buyer age is just happening much later.”