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MTV’s "Millennials Have Drive" Research Study Executive Summary


Introduction: MTV's new research study, "Millennials Have Drive," explores critical insights into Millennial's emotional and practical relationship with cars and driving. Moreover, the study delves into the differences between Millennials' and previous generations' definition of success, what roles cars play and how the automobile industry can better reach and interact with these drivers.

Methodology: "Millennials Have Drive" was fielded in the spring of 2014 and included quantitative research of 3,610 Millennials (ages 18-34), 400 Gen Xers and 403 Boomers. In addition, the study included qualitative field studies including focus groups, one-on-one interviews, virtual travelogues, car-creation groups, deal-alongs, expert and car dealer interviews, and more.

Summary: With so much current speculation around Millennials and the auto industry, "Millennials Have Drive" uncovers an increase in young people's passion for cars and car ownership, as well as key points of entry for the automobile industry to win over this generation with more targeted car advertising, increased customization options and a more transparent buying process.

The findings unearth and debunk the following five major myths about young people and the auto industry:

Myth #1: Millennials don't drive.

Truth: Even among today's growing transportation options, driving is still Millennials' go-to mode.

  • 80 percent of Millennials get around most often by car versus walking (8 percent), public transportation (8 percent), biking (2 percent) and car services (1 percent)

The Millennial lifestyle (more free time than Boomers and Gen Xers, more active after work, etc.) has also led this generation to cover more ground per month than other generations.

  • Young people claim to drive more miles per month than any other generation with a self-reported 72 percent increase in the average number of miles driven versus Boomers (934 miles vs. 544 miles) and an 18 percent increase versus Gen X (934 miles vs. 790 miles)

Myth #2: Millennials don't want to drive, have no interest in getting their license and choose other methods of transportation in order to stay connected.

Truth: State laws are holding teens back as they now have driving restrictions placed on them that other generations did not.

  • Since 1990, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have implemented some form of license restriction laws that range from waiting periods to receive your license to limited driving hours, necessary car decals, limited amount of people in the car, etc. Prior to 1990, there were no restrictions other than age.

Myth #3: Millennials don't like cars and don't find them essential.

Truth: Young people not only like cars but are passionate about them.

  • 70 percent of Millennials enjoy driving versus 58 percent of Boomers and 66 percent of Gen Xers
  • 3 in 4 young people agree "they couldn't live without their current car" versus 62 percent of Boomers and on par with Gen Xers (73 percent)
  • 6 in 10 Millennials said "they feel like losers among their peers without their cars"

Myth #4: Millennials are forgoing the purchasing of cars and other big ticket items.

Truth: With the warming of the economy and more young people aging into the workplace and, subsequently, accumulating more savings, Millennials are looking to buy cars.

  • 8 in 10 Millennials see cars as the one big ticket item people their age purchase
  • 3 in 4 Millennials believe they have a lot of purchasing influence
  • 6 in 10 young people would rather buy than lease a car
  • 1 in 3 young people plan to buy and/or lease a new car within the next 6 months

Myth #5: Millennials one true love is technology, especially their phones, and cars cannot compete for their attention.

Truth: Unlike previous generations - Millennials see both their car and their phone as a necessity to social connection:

  • 92 percent agreeing that having a smart phone does not replace the need for a car

And, in fact, when forced to choose – Millennials choose their cars:

  • 76 percent of young people would rather give us social media for a day than their car for a day
  • 72 percent would rather give up texting for a week than their care for a week

Overall, Millennials value their cars and phones for similar reasons of accomplishing tasks, freedom, exploring new places and learning new things. They also agree that both allow for them to interact with friends and family and protects them from the fear of missing out (FOMO).

How to Target Millennials:

In order to successfully target this generation, the automobile industry must first understand what drives young people versus previous generations, their core values when looking to purchase a car, and how to tap into their functional and emotional needs to better win them over.

The Drive to Self-Actualize – Millennials engage with cars differently compared to other generations.

For Boomers and Xers, being a "successful" adult was defined by independence. With Millennials, "success" is defined by independence and individuality. A car plays an integral role as young people craft the persona they want to show the world and can help them get where they want to be literally and figuratively.  Millennials are striving to reach the same milestones as previous generations, but faster and in their own unique way.

  • 73 percent agree they get really annoyed when things don't happen quickly versus 49 percent of Boomers and 65 percent of Gen Xers.

The Drive to Make My Mark – Millennials use their cars to make their presence known in the world.

Millennials share two of three foundational needs with Boomers and Gen Xers when it comes to their cars – the need for control and the need for freedom:

  • 76 percent of young people say it's important that their next car gives them control
  • 88 percent agree it's important that their next car is always reliable
  • 9 in 10 Millennials say that having a car means having more freedom
  • 77 percent feel it's important that their next car makes them feel happy

Unique to this generation, young people place a larger emphasis on the importance of their car in helping them make their mark.

  • 73 percent of Millennials say it's important their car reflect who they are versus 48 percent of Boomers and 64 percent of Gen Xers
  • 63 percent of Millennials say it's important their car helps them become who they want to be versus 50 percent of Boomers and 24 percent of Gen Xers

Millennials Are Up for Grabs – There is no one brand ahead of another when it comes to getting Millennials' attention.

Of the five favorite major auto brands among Millennials, all index above an average of 100 with young people on the values of control (125) and freedom (106). However, all fall below the norm when it comes to the Millennial value of making my mark (92).

Moreover, when compared to Millennials' five favorite cross-category brands (tech, food and beverage, apparel, retail, etc.), the top Millennial auto brands only notch a 46 percent affinity rating (likeability, attraction, kinship) versus 74 percent of affinity for the cross-category brands.

Considering 73 percent of young people saying they are willing to pay more for car brands they love, "Millennials Have Drive" found three major opportunities for the automobile industry to better reach this audience:

#1 The buying process – auto brands can empower Millennials and make the buying process more appealing through the following:

  • More Transparent Process – Standardized ratings and comparisons; Instant communication with brand experts who are separate from sales people to answer questions.
    • 73 percent of young people love learning about new car models and functions versus 69 percent of Boomers and 54 percent of Gen Xers
    • 71 percent of Millennials find ratings and comparisons among different vehicles often unclear
  • Fair Pricing - Better itemized costs, taxes and options upfront; Make the process overall more enjoyable and a celebration.
    • 83 percent of young people wish car brands would explain more about how vehicle prices are set
    • 82 percent of Millennials find buying/leasing a new car exciting
  • Faster Process – Allow buyers to complete paperwork in advance and on their own time in advance of coming into a dealership; Offer more virtual tours and information on features to expedite the on-site buying process
    • 80 percent of Millennials feel that buying/leasing a car should take less time than it does

#2 Customization – Millennials want flexibility to create customized interiors that best represent them. They want to play around with different looks via online showrooms where they can experiment (minus the sales people), see car companies seamlessly meld their phones into their cars, and continue to have a relationship with the car dealer where oil changes could earn points toward new floor mats or fog lights.

  • 87 percent of Millennials say, "I enjoy customizing the things I own to make them uniquely for me"
  • 8 in 10 young people wish there were more affordable ways to customize their cars versus 55 percent of Boomers and 68 percent of Gen Xers
  • 71 percent of Millennials agree that they like to customize their car more on the inside than outside versus 47 percent of Boomers and 62 percent of Gen Xers

#3 Messaging and Advertising – Millennials understand the power of advertising and look for brands to speak to them as mature adults and with language that reflects who they are.

  • 57 percent of young people say that car advertisements influence their purchasing decisions versus 33 percent of Boomers and 42 percent of Gen Xers
  • 1 in 2 Millennials don't feel that current car advertisements speak to who they are
  • 63 percent of young people love when car companies seem plugged into pop culture by doing things like partnering with musical artists versus 30 percent of Boomers and 52 percent of Gen Xers
  • 70 percent say car advertisements catch their attention more when they have music in them
  • 58 percent love car brands that introduce them to new music

"Millennials Have Drive" represents the first wave of research coming from Viacom's brands in the car category. A second automobile study will be released later in 2015.

For more information, please reach out to Mariana Agathoklis at or Jason Shumaker at ​