Trucks at Work
The personal touch

The personal touch

One area we found very interesting is Michigan State University’s analysis that the actual car shopping experience is three times more important to ‘Generation Y’ than vehicle design … and must connect across the evaluation, sales and post-sales cycles.” –Joe Vitale, with Deloitte LLP's automotive practice and Generation Y research program

It’s a sure-fire given that automobiles and heavy commercial trucks live and work in vastly different transportation worlds, in terms of everything from daily/yearly mileage, vehicle handling characteristics, on down to the dominant type of fuel consumed (gasoline versus diesel, respectively).

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Yet it’s also a sure-fire given that people – good, old fashion living-and-breathing humans – are required to operate both, and thus commonalities are bound to be shared.

That “commonality” regarding the human experience is one reason trucks today are quieter, more comfortable, provide far more stopping power, and often times don’t require any shifting of gears. They’ve become in many respects “car-like” because the folks driving today’s advanced automobiles don’t want to take a “step down” when they enter the cab of a big rig.

In a larger sense, a similar trendline may be starting to develop on the buying/selling side of the truck equation, if new research compiled by consulting firm Deloitte LLP pans out.

The firm recently conducted a survey in collaboration with The Eli Broad Graduate School of Business at Michigan State University called Gaining Speed: Gen Y in the Driver's Seat that indicates an interesting shift is occurring in how this generation, which accounts for more than 20% of the population in the United States, views the vehicle shopping experience.

Don’t think this applies to heavy trucks? Think again. By 2012, “Generation Y” will account for approximately 40% of the car-buying population – and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a similar shift occurring in the truck world.

It’s reflective of a “generational shift” that’s now beginning to pick up speed, with 77 million “baby boomers” poised to retire over the next two decades, yet replaced by only 46 million new workers, according to numbers tracked by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

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ASTD’s research indicates that “Generation X” workers (born between 1965 and 1979) typically value a strong balance between life and work, priding themselves on self-reliance and resourcefulness. Then there are “Generation Y” or “Millennial” workers, born between 1980 and 2000, that are more technologically savvy and desire even more workplace flexibility.

“Our analysis of the survey findings points to technology as a key generational differentiator," said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and automotive practice leader for Deloitte. “For baby boomers, technology is largely utilitarian and defined by safety features, whereas ‘Gen Y’ views technology as a more personal feature. They see their cars as personal technology cocoons, and expect so-called 'cockpit technology,' where they can continue to run their lives uninterrupted, from messaging to music to the latest smart phone apps, 24/7.”

Yet at the same time Gen Y folks believe the “personal touch” when it comes to buying a new vehicle is far more important than ever before – in fact three times more important than the vehicle’s design, noted Joe Vitale, with Deloitte's automotive practice and Generation Y research program.

[Consultant Dennis Snow will tell you this is yet another indication that “customer loyalty” as a concept is very much alive and well these days.]

More than 82% of Gen Y consumers sin Deloitte’s survey say they are excited to shop for a vehicle even as such “ enthusiasm” keeps dropping among Gen X and baby boomer respondents (to 71.2% and 66.3%, respectively). Gen Y is also particularly loyal when it comes to automobile brands with 42% percent of respondents last year and 48% this year saying they expect to be driving the same vehicle brand in five years, Deloitte’s research indicated.

Yet they are also fairly unforgiving, too, with 52.4% of Gen Y respondents agreeing with the survey statement, “A bad experience with a salesperson would cause me never to consider that brand of car again.”

“Authentic, direct and personal engagements with Gen Y consumers are even more important than advertising campaigns,” said Deloitte’s Giffi. “Also, according to the survey, Gen Y consumers actively share opinions and exert their influence far more than older generations, using the virtual world of social media to reach a never-ending audience.”

That “personal touch” when it comes to trucks is already important, of course – and all it seems to be doing is getting even stronger. For example, several years ago I talked with a long haul driver, Chuck Racine, as he prepared to buy a new big rig. He’d done a lot of research on the new models being unveiled by other manufacturers, but in the end chose to stick with the dealership that had served him so well over his career – in this case, a Kenworth dealer in Evansville, IN.

What’s happening now is that “personal feeling” is getting significantly amplified by the younger generation, it seems, which is going to place greater responsibility (but, of course, rewards as well) on those selling and maintaining trucks.

Think about this for a second: about 67% of Gen Y respondents to Deloitte’s survey said that product recalls during the past year were of some concern, but more than 67% of total respondents said they would still consider buying a brand despite a recall.

“This is one reason why ‘trustworthiness’ emerged as one of the top three most important factors for Gen Y when purchasing a car along with vehicle quality and safety,” Deloitte’s Giffi noted. “However, the survey also shows that Gen Y considers these factors part of any ‘base package,’ underscoring their desire for overall transparency and sincerity from dealers and OEMs.”

Something to consider as the generational changeover continues to take hold in this nation of ours.