(CBS) – The 2017 Chicago Auto Show rolls into town where you can see the newest models with the latest technology and design.
But the big question when it comes to new cars: Who’s buying?
Once a car was a rite of passage into adulthood.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole remembers his first car — an AMC Spirit purchased for $800. But Millennials don’t share that dream, and it’s impacted the way automakers are designing cars to win them over.
He stopped by an urban coffee shop and met twenty-somethings who aren’t revved up about owning a car, yet.
“I think when you live in the city there is less need for a car. A lot of Millennials live in the city,” Julia Marback says.
At 30 percent of the population, Millenials once gave automakers more headaches than a traffic jam.
“They didn’t have the kind of love affair with cars growing up because they were into more technology,” says Craig Patterson, Ford’s marketing manager.
Cell phones gave younger Millennials their freedom, but they are now switching gears as they age.
“They are buying cars slower. They are not buying cars when they’re in their 20s; they’re waiting until their 30s,” says Scotty Reiss of SheBuysCars.
Automakers rolling into town for the Chicago Auto show are happy to report Millennials accounted for 28 percent of new car sales last year — up 11 percent from 2010.
“We’ve done a lot of customer research, we really got to know them well, to get an idea of what makes them tick,” Patterson says.
Nissan’s new Rogue Sport — a smaller SUV crossover with room for friends and family but compact enough to park in tight city spaces — reflects Millennials’ preferences. So does the brightly colored Ford EcoSport debuting in 2018.
“Technology is no longer a premium feature. Technology is expected to be in the entire vehicle,” says Tim Franklin, chief marketing manager for Nissan.
Cars and cell phones need to merge, so on-board cameras, modems and 8-inch touch screens are standard for Millennials who see the changes coming round the bend.
Millennial habits are still cause for concern. If they postpone buying cars until their 30s, they will buy fewer cars over their lifetime.