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The new engine powering car accessory sales

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Cars and young people. For decades, the relationship was pretty much a straightforward love affair. But with the rise of the millennial generation, things got — well — complicated.

For some time, there was even a fear in the auto industry that millennials might become the first post-car generation — a concern fueled by the popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft and the demographic obtaining drivers licenses and buying cars at lower rates than their predecessors.

Worries of a permanent shift in tastes and preferences for vehicle ownership proved overblown. It turned out the Great Recession had clobbered young people particularly hard and forced them to delay rites of passage like leaving home.

But it’s tune-up time for the industry’s manufacturers, distributors and retailers, who are meeting in coming days (Nov. 5 to Nov. 8) in Las Vegas for SEMA Show. And UPS can help.

“In recent years, as the economy has improved, millennials have started acting a lot like previous generations.”

Mirroring previous generations

In recent years, as the economy has improved, millennials have started acting a lot like previous generations. They’ve moved out on their own — to the relief of their moms and dads — and they’ve started purchasing new and used cars and trucks and aftermarket vehicle parts and accessories with gusto, to the delight of the auto industry.

In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, more than one-third of the folks buying aftermarket vehicle parts and accessories were younger than 30, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

And after falling 50 percent from 2005 to 2010, new vehicle buying rates for 16 to 34 year olds rebounded to normal pre-recession levels by 2015, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. They have continued to grow since. By 2020, millennials will be the largest single demographic group in the market, according to Cox Automotive.

“Connecting with millennials remains a challenge that manufacturers, distributors and retailers need to take seriously.”

It’s complicated

But these young purchasers remain complicated. Millennials approach the buying process differently than previous generations.

They grew up online. Mobile devices and social media platforms are central to their shopping and buying habits. So, connecting with them in their native digital domains — not just Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram but also Reddit and Twitch — remains a challenge that manufacturers, distributors and retailers need to take seriously.

SEMA’s Young Accessorizers Report is a great place to start if you want to understand how these young buyers shop for parts and accessories.

In some ways, these connected, tech-savvy youngsters look at things differently than their parents and grandparents, according to SEMA. But in other ways, they aren’t all that different after all.

Technology just gives them an outlet to express themselves and make new friends. But cars, it turns out, are part of their social experience, too, helping them stay closer to their friends and networks.

“UPS is another great resource for businesses hoping to understand and win the loyalty of these up-and-coming consumers, whose power and influence will only grow in the coming years.”

The UPS perspective

UPS is another great resource for businesses hoping to understand and win the loyalty of these up-and-coming consumers, whose power and influence will only grow in the coming years.

Our annual Pulse of the Online Shopper and Industrial Buying Dynamics studies provide actionable insights into the changing behaviors and expectations of buyers of all ages, as well as products all over the world.

This year’s Pulse study, based on a survey of 18,000 online shoppers worldwide, found that express shipping isn’t necessarily the Holy Grail for online shoppers, who accounted for nearly half of SEMA members’ sales in 2018.

Need more help? UPS’s team of experts stands ready to assist you. We know a thing or two about e-commerce — from fulfillment to returns — and we offer a host of services and flexible shipping solutions that can help you delight your customers.

Header photo courtesy of SEMA.

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