Gen X relates to those born between the early 1960's and 1980 (The Telegraph), making them the bond between Boomers and Millennials. Their relative influence on the car industry has re-sculpted the purpose mobility plays within everyday life whilst providing the foundations for characteristics displayed by Millennials. They can therefore be credited with the initial pivot towards what we now see as the modern automotive market.
In terms of innovation, this cohort's position within the generational timeline has allowed them to ‘build the bridge between analogue and digital,' incorporating new technologies during a time where computers where only just entering the market (Forbes). This makes them relatively liberal in the adoption of innovation vs boomers. 92% of Gen X are internet users (Pew Research Center), with 60% of them using a smartphone daily (Ad Week). In terms of consumption, 68% use the internet several times a day, positioning them closer to Millennials (77%) than Boomers (49%) (Ipsos Mori). Whilst there is a strong uptake of specific social media channels amongst Gen X, their use of such media is far more conservative than younger Millennials, acting as informative platforms over methods of self-expression (Forbes). A study by eMarketer acknowledges that due to online conduct, brands need strategies that incorporate multiple channels to effectively engage with Gen X (eMarketer).
Emphasis comes from eCommerce habits. 56% of Gen X'ers prefer to shop online rather than in-store, doing so for up to 6 hours a week (Big Commerce). The overall annual online spend of Gen X amounts to approx. $1,930, $70 less than millennials; who currently lead online spend (Business Insider). A breakdown of the cohort's past online behaviour uncovers a preference for online marketplaces (56%), large retailer sites (76%), webstores/independent boutiques (49%) and category-specific online stores (37%) (Big Commerce).
Gen X accounts for just under a quarter of the US auto market (24%)(JD Power), representing 31% of overall consumer purchasing power (Ad Week). They have the highest brand loyalty of any generational cohort at 70% (Ad Week), and are responsible for approx. 40% of total sales for several brands (Auto Trader). Therefore, whilst this demographic isn't the largest, it holds significance through spend potential and brand advocate behaviour.
Unlike boomers, Gen X car customers value practicality and safety that facilitates the demands of their family over status and luxury (Open Road Auto Concierge). Such views have proactively driven the emergence of new niches within the automotive industry, catering for larger, high capacity, functional vehicles such as SUV's and Minivans (Auto Trader). The need for such vehicles is derived from the unique social and economic pressures facing this generation. They are at the forefront of a new multigenerational household structure, catering to the care needs of their elders whilst providing housing to millennials (Forbes). Typical households therefore accommodate more individuals than generations prior. Whilst social pressures have escalated, incomes have not provided compensation for such demands relative to trends experienced in the first half of the 1900's. This has been attributed to the ‘Great Recession' and sluggish economic growth, leading to the mean net household wealth per adult diminishing per decade (Institute for Fiscal Studies). These factors combined have not however influenced their views on car ownership, which is predominantly in line with the traditional pro-ownership perspective. A study by Goldman Sachs found that globally, only 17% of Gen X would be willing to car-share (Goldman Sachs). This statistic is remarkably consistent across geographical markets, showing no true dominance or weakness in any continent.
Gen X are liberal tech adopters, open to new innovations that facilitate daily life. Such adoption shares similarities with Millennial behaviour, however in a more conservative, less expressive way. Their car tastes differ from their predecessors due to their unique role supporting older and younger generations, meaning they require functionality above all else. Their attitude towards eCommerce is on par with Millennials in terms of spend, harnessing a multitude of portals to fulfil their needs. This means marketers must utilise a contemporary multi-channel approach to identify and engage with the demographic.