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Generation Z: The Car Hobby Lives

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I published my first article for Vehicle Nanny two years ago today.  That was my introduction to the website where I share my passion for the car hobby and the automotive industry.  This was also the beginning of my journey to safeguard the future of the car hobby with young enthusiasts.  What a journey it has become!

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In the article “Future of the Car Hobby,” I shared a study from Hagerty Insurance.  This study detailed the types of cars Millennials seek, based on the number of insurance quote requests made to Hagerty Insurance.  This study settled my concerns about the Millennial generation of car enthusiasts, but we now have a new generation coming of car buying age. 

Welcome to Generation Z!

The Newest Generation of Car Buyers

Hagerty published a new study last week detailing the collector car interests of Generation Z (those born 1997-2012).  This is the youngest generation of driving age, with more than half of them 16 years and older.  Here is the headline: this generation is interested in cars, but favor those cars that the rest of us ignore.

You can read the full study HERE, but my highlights are shown below. 

list of top 20 cars

Highlights of the Study

Like the Millennials before them, Gen Z buyers are facing student loan debt or other financial burdens.  This drives their taste in cars, but only explains part of their thinking.

My notes from the Hagerty study are listed below:

  • Gen Z enthusiasts favor Japanese Domestic Market cars (cars produced for use in Japan).
  • They focus on more usable vehicles like vintage SUVs and performance cars from the 1990s and 2000s.
  • From the chart below, the highest ranked non-Asian brand is Volvo.
  • Only two American makers are in the top 20–Jeep and Tesla.
  • They have no interest in British cars, due to the reputation for poor reliability.
  • BMW is really the main German brand of interest, but only the more affordable 3-series.  This means none of the sports cars (Z3 or Z4) are appealing.
  • The only Porsches to be considered are the 924/944 models of the late 1970s, early 1980s.  This is because these cars are still affordable ($7,500 – 19,000 for ones in good shape).
list of top 20 brands

Overall, Gen Z wants to own vehicles that are both affordable and unlike those favored by their elders.  The affordability factor explains the interest in four-door Asian cars and cheaper performance sedans.  The interest in JDM cars and other Asian sedans shows they want to be different than other generations.

Limited American Car Appeal

This youngest driving generation does like some classic American brands, but again they are driven by the unique and affordable quality of these cars.  The following are the only American collector cars quoted by Hagerty:

  • 1949-1954 Dodge Meadowbrook
  • 1971-1977 Mercury Comet (same as Ford Maverick)
  • 1972-1976 Mercury Montego (same as Ford Torino)
  • 1975-1979 Chevrolet Nova
  • 1974 – 1978 Ford Mustang II

I am not sure why the Dodge Meadowbrook is on this list, but maybe it is an affordable version of a post war car?  The two Mercurys are less known clones of more popular Ford cars. This makes them unique and not on anyone’s classic car radar.  

The 1975-1979 Novas maintained the chassis and general design of the more popular 1967-1972 models, but came with smog-choked engines. This makes them cheaper than the earlier models.  The performance issues are easy to overcome, as the aftermarket is flush with performance and handling parts.

Ford Mustang II

Perhaps the best example of the Gen Z thought process is the Mustang II.  While the Mustang name is popular and are mostly good performing cars, the 1974-1978 models were really restyled Ford Pintos.  This donut hole of Mustangs definitely support the unique and affordable classic focus of the Gen Z enthusiasts.

The Car Hobby Lives On

Two years ago I wrote about my concerns for the car hobby.  Today, I look at the collector car interests of the two youngest generations with great relief.  In each case, there is strong interest in the hobby but with different tastes.  This varied interest broadens the definition of a collector car, which keeps the car hobby alive and well.

This does not mean my job here is done.  Now I want to explore these JDM cars and see what makes them tick!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Stuart

    I don’t understand the domestic list at all. I wonder how accurate this survey was.

    1. Bill

      It comes from the request for collector car insurance quotes made by Gen Z customers. These were the top models requesting quotes. I think the general theme is the Gen Z enthusiasts like cars that are different and/or ignored by other collectors. Just look at the Mustang II as an example. Pretty much unloved by any serious collector.

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