Automotive, Industry Ideas, Insights

How you can sell cars to Millennials (and beat Uber)

By Alex Vorobiev - Sep 21, 2020

Car ownership is a fickle thing. For the past few years, it looked like old fashioned ownership was on the decline among younger demographics who found more value in newer transportation models.

Between ridesharing services like Uber and car-sharing offerings like Zipcar, many consumers (Millennials and Gen Z in particular) saw little value in the traditional lease or purchase paradigms. Dealerships struggled to sell cars to Millennials.

Insurance costs alone could easily exceed the price of taking a Lyft everywhere, not to mention the hassle of maintenance (and winter tires, and major repairs, and gasoline, and…). So why did Millennials suddenly shift back towards the car ownership models of yore? And how can you sell to them?

Who are Millennials, and what are they thinking?


A 2020 article published in the Atlantic outlined the sudden and unexpected surge in car sales among younger generations. While car sales initially dropped off due to quarantine measures in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, purchases among consumers aged 18 to 35 skyrocketed.

But in 2020 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.
Wait, 35 years old? Aren't Millennials those kids who walk around glued to their phones? The Millennial generation ends around 1996, meaning all those kids born with iPhones in their hands are part of Gen Z. You can learn key tactics for reaching Gen Z over here!

Why are Millennials moving back to car ownership?

While convenience has long been on the top of everyone’s mind, COVID rearranged our collective priorities and placed safety above all else – specifically, safety from germs. Even with COVID largely in the rear-view mirror, germ safety will forever be a major priority for many -- especially among the younger generations.

This is equally true for other common methods of transportation, like buses, trains, and taxis. All the shared-use alternatives to car ownership very suddenly gained a negative stigma among those worried about illness. The only risk-free mode of transit is the car that you, and only you, are allowed to use.

What this means for your dealership

Well, when we dig into the nature of this resurgence, we see an interesting but not unexpected trend: car purchases may be increasing among the youngest two generations, but dealership traffic isn’t. Millennials and Gen Z want to buy a car the way they buy everything else: digitally.

According to Bloomberg, online-only car retailer Carvana has serious concerns that their inventory isn’t keeping up with demand. As car sales fell, Carvana’s revenue soared due to consumer need for easy, online purchase options.

Millennials were nearly twice as likely as boomers to shop for and buy a vehicle — new or used — entirely online

The common factor to success

It’s not just Carvana. Headlines have pummelled us for years now with news of a “digital-first” industry shift; the success of dealerships across North America hinges on seamless digital solutions.

That “seamless” part is small but critical. As eager as young consumers (whose market share is surging) are to buy online, they don’t want to feel like they’re navigating a second-class purchase process. These car buyers demand an online experience that equals or exceeds the dealership norms.

Digital retailing is the only answer

This is the power of digital retailing – the power I’ve been hinting at for what feels like years. As consumer expectations and purchase habits shift (quite rapidly these days), dealerships need to be equipped with the right tools to meet a new type of car buyer head-on. We have more ideas about how to prepare your dealership in this article.

More than that, dealers can succeed today and tomorrow by choosing a solution that offers the flexibility to continue adapting as the market evolves. With the top digital retailing platforms, consumers choose their own paths to purchase, interweaving digital and physical shopping into their own unique patterns.

Some people are eager to rush to the dealership and smell that unmistakable new car scent; other people will continue to avoid unnecessary public interactions for years to come. There’s a new spectrum of customer behaviour, and omnichannel digital retailing is your way to satisfy everyone on it, no matter how they want to buy.

Ready to sell more cars? See how your dealership can thrive online today.

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