Posts Tagged Millennials

Even cheap cars can be cool

1972 Datsun 510 SedanA common narrative in the car industry these days is that “Millennials” don’t like cars. They’re more interested in playing with smartphones, the experts say.

Yet there might be another explanation: there are no appealing cars.

Whether they’re a recent college graduate or a high school student competing with a mother of two for a job at McDonald’s, young people today aren’t exactly having an easy time in the job market.

So it stands to reason that if a Millennial is looking for a new car, they’re probably looking for something cheap.

With a base price of $12,780 (including destination), the 2014 Nissan Versa sedan is one of the cheapest new cars around. It’s also tragically boring.

From its flabby exterior to its modest powertrain, the Versa seems to have been designed with indifference; a car built to a price. Then again, what else can you expect from the bottom of the market?

If you shopped for a small, economical car in 1971, you could have picked up a Datsun 510 two-door sedan–the Versa’s direct ancestor–for $1,990, according to Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car. That’s about $11,000 today.

2013 Nissan VersaAt first glance, the 510 doesn’t seem better than the Versa. It’s not fast, it’s not pretty, and compared to the average car of 2014 it’s as basic as Tevye’s milk wagon.

Yet the 510 excels where it counts.

For one, the 510 is known as a great car to drive; Datsun used the BMW 1600 as a benchmark, after all. It was even raced by the likes of Paul Newman and Bob Sharp.

The simple styling has endeared this boxy Datsun to many, who view it as honest and, yes, cool.

The 510 is on its way to becoming one of the first truly collectible Japanese cars. Do you think collectors will pay attention to the Versa in 40 years?

Clearly, a cheap car can be cool. The Versa isn’t, which may be partly why Millennials don’t want to buy it and other cars like it.

Nissan itself seems to recognize this. At the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the Japanese automaker unveiled a pair of concept cars, the IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO.

Nissan IDx Freeflow / IDx NISMOTake one look at these square show cars and it’s hard not to think of the 510. The performance-oriented NISMO version even wears a variation of the 1970s Datsun racing colors.

In its press materials for the IDx pair, Nissan said it involved Millennials in the design process, and found that they wanted a basic, more “authentic” car. Sounds a lot like the 510 to me.

A production IDx wouldn’t replace the Versa or any other entry-level Nissan, but hopefully the concepts will show that subjective qualities are just as important as practicality, fuel economy, or reliability.

If people are going to continue viewing their cars as more than just interchangeable appliances, carmakers have to give them a reason to.

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The ridiculed generation

Time fake cover 1I’m sure you’ve seen the Time magazine cover “The Me Me Me Generation,” and that many responses are already circulating around the Internet (and that Time appreciates the publicity). Something like this deserves a vigorous response, because young people need to stick up for themselves.

Saying that recent college graduates have no jobs and live with their parents purely out of laziness and narcissism ignores the obvious fact that there are no jobs to be had. The most frustrating thing about Joel Stein’s article might be that it’s forcing me to talk about the “Great Recession.”

Remember that? The media talks about it incessantly, except in this case.

It’s still going on, sort of. At the very least, employers are still using it as an excuse not to hire people, or to tinker with the definition of “employment.”

Many entry-level positions are being replaced with internships, or being occupied by temps and people displaced from higher positions. The desperation of workers young and old also makes it easier for employers to cut full-time positions down to part-time, throwing benefits out the window in the process.

I guess wanting a job instead of occasional work makes a person narcissistic.

It also means recent college graduates are competing with people who will work for free (isn’t that slavery?) on the one hand, and people who out-qualify them on the other.

But hey, this isn’t the Great Depression, right? Many young people are employed, so why don’t they move the hell out of their parents’ basements?

Well, unlike the people who get to write Time cover stories, today’s youth are saddled with student loan debt. In fact, with so many people spending so much of their (theoretical) income on loan repayment, I honestly can’t see how society will function when the Baby Boomers finally retire.

Some might view this as excuse-making; past generations have been worse off than this one, after all. Or have they?

Growing up in New York City in the 1970s, my dad had a much harder life than me, but he did get to go to college for free. He was also allowed to feel frustrated about his job prospects without being called lazy and narcissistic.

This generation isn’t the first to come of age during lean economic times, but it is the first to be ridiculed by the same generation that raised it.

Our parents told us to go to college, because getting an education is important. They tell us to enjoy our youth, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. How does following their advice make us bad people?Time fake cover 2

“Millennials” aren’t perfect, but they have nothing to apologize for when compared to the Baby Boomers.

The Boomers drank, smoked, and partied as much as anyone and, it’s hard to describe the hippie movement and other introspective fads of the 1960s as anything but selfish.

“Millennials” certainly don’t protest like them, but it’s important to remember that ‘60s anti-war and civil rights protests only involved a small minority of college students, who had a big incentive in the form of a military draft. Also, their parents thought this civil disobedience was narcissistic.

Those adults were wrong, of course, and so are today’s. It;s easy to peg young people as lazy or narcissistic, because that would shift responsibility away from the people who have made their lives so challenging. Sometimes, I am genuinely embarrassed by my generation, but that doesn’t mean we deserve to be scapegoated.

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