How life stage drives millennials’ car purchasing decisions

Millennials are the largest living generation totaling 83 million people. Understanding the behavior of millennials and the why behind their behavior is paramount. But the key to marketing to millennials lies in letting go of the idea that millennials as a cohort all act in the same ways. The truth is that their age doesn’t determine their behaviors and preferences, their life stage does. For example, a millennial mom makes different purchase decisions than a millennial who has just graduated college.

A car is one of the biggest purchase decisions a millennial makes. Last year, millennials bought 4 million cars and trucks in the U.S., second only to the baby boomers, according to J.D. Power's Power Information Network. Millennials' share of the new car market jumped to 28 percent. Additionally, in the next 10 years, 40% of all new vehicles will be sold to millennials, and they’ll be buying cars for the rest of the 21st century. (

Automotive brands must engage in efforts to understand millennials’ behavior as it relates to their mobility preference. Mobility preference plays an important role in influencing how much a millennial will potentially spend. I like to think about mobility preference in terms of four different types:

  • City Dwellers – those who live in the city and don’t have or need a car as they rely on public transportation, taxi, Uber or car share services (i.e. eGo, Car2Go).
  • Family Share – those who live at home and have the opportunity to share a family/household car with their parents/siblings for commuting to work.
  • Car in Motion – those who are driving the car they had in college, keep it well-maintained and serviced and strive for the longevity of the car.
  • New Car Driver – those who purchase a new car post-graduation. By age 25, 5.02% of millennials purchase new cars. (Epsilon automotive research)

Understanding mobility types combined with millennial stages and building relationships with consumers based on their mobility needs is important for marketers to keep top of mind. Determining mobility type and  developing a series of campaigns organized by your mobility preference data sets will help to cultivate millennials’ loyalty to your brand. Epsilon’s TotalSource PlusTM consumer database identifies six millennial segments—organized by life stage—helping marketers further understand each target’s unique personalities and needs. To meet our six millennial stages, download our latest research, #marketingtomillennials: A guide to understanding today’s millennials.

After you’ve developed an understanding of the millennial segments’ behavior, think about how you can fulfill their needs with both mobility preference and life stage in mind.

Buick’s “Buick lets blue hair down” campaign is a good example of how automotive brands are trying to engage millennials. The average driver of a Buick is 60.3, so Buick understood they had to take their marketing to the next level to effectively engage and appeal to the more than 4 million millennial car buyers. Buick gained insight into millennial preferences for cars and added these features into new car models including the turbocharged sports sedan and compact crossover. With new features like 4G LTE Wireless internet connectivity  and their advertising campaigns featuring celebrities such as Shaquille O’Neal, Peyton Manning and supermodel Marissa Miller, the Buick brand is appearing not only luxurious, but appealing to millennials.

To succeed in next generation loyalty, automotive brands need to effectively engage next generation consumers. Buick is just one example of how automotive brands are leveraging data to understand consumer preferences to effectively engage millennials.

This article first published on on June 1, 2016.