So, you want to sell cars to Gen Y? Here’s a hint: call Apple

On Monday the New York Times ran an article about a partnership between AT&T and GM to put 4G wireless data connections into new GM automobiles ( At first I thought, that’s kind of cool. But as I thought about it a bit more I realized that auto manufacturers are really missing the mark and focusing in the wrong areas.

I land on the older side of the Gen Y definition, but I am Gen Y none the less. The one thing I have been realizing is that cars are not at all important to a large segment of Gen Yer’s. It’s not just me noticing the trend, there is actual data to back it up. 25% of Gen Yer’s don’t have their licence yet and many probably like it that way. Driving is down 23%, biking is up 122% and walking is up 37%. Demographic trends are partially at play here. There is a trend of young people moving into cities to work and take advantage of public transportation. Gas is expensive, cars are expensive, insurance is expensive…all at a time when it is hard to find a job. Gen Y is more in tune with environmental issues and then there’s car sharing…why even buy a car when you can just have a Zipcar membership?

Two years ago my auto preferences started shifting and I went car shopping. I was done with my large gas sucking Jeep and wanted to downsize and downgrade. I basically didn’t want anything special, just something to get me from point A to point B. I outlined my top priorities:

  1. Extremely fuel-efficient
  2. Low cost of maintenance
  3. Reliable & good reviews
  4. Used, yet well cared for

I ended up settling on a used Honda Civic Hybrid that was a few years old at the time (2008 model). It’s been a great car and I have never regretted purchasing it. At the time I couldn’t go without a car for work and I’ve kept it around so I can escape the city. Even though I don’t drive very often one thing has really bothered me in the last year…if I had to do this all over again today the list would look like this:

  1. Smartphone connectivity with iOS based system in my dashboard
  2. Extremely fuel-efficient
  3. Low cost of maintenance
  4. Reliable & good reviews
  5. Used, yet well cared for

I want a iPad mini in my car from the factory. Ok, it doesn’t have to be an iPad mini per se, but I want Apple to work with auto manufacturers and come up with a touch screen iOS based car entertainment center, meant for cars. I want that system to link to my iPhone via bluetooth or wifi and I want it to work together, seamlessly. I don’t want the Ford SYNC, GM ONStar, or any other crappy factory solution that the auto manufacturers think is amazing because it has all sorts of modern “features”. All their systems suck and they always will because they specialize at building cars, not modern smart phones, tablet devices, or computer ecosystems.

I want a Siri button built-in. I want my iPhone to talk to the factory system, stream music from it, pause music when calls come in, and use the data connection on my phone. I want my address book to sync with my car system. I want to be able to download car specific apps. Why do I need to be FORCED to use AT&T 4G service just because GM decided to make a deal with AT&T? What if I don’t want an AT&T data connection on my car? What if I want to use the data connection I already pay for? And why on earth would GM and AT&T partner to build apps for their cars? What’s the point anyway, the system it will be hooked into will just be crappy anyway and people will just end up plugging their phones in the AUX jack. What a waste.

I have thought about hacking an iPad mini into my car and I have thought about looking for newer cars just to have a bluetooth connection for my phone. My voice of reason kicked in, but I still think about it. So, you want to see Gen Y cars? Give us a touch screen iOS system from the factory and the same seamless user experience we get elsewhere. I guarantee you will get a few more sales from that rather than a partnership with AT&T for a “4G” connection.

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