Millennials want cars after all, luxury brands most, Harris survey finds

The car culture is alive and well among millennials.

And younger shoppers in general prefer luxury brands to driving in the mainstream, according to The Harris Poll of 102,617 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over conducted earlier this year.

It’s a different picture than the one often described concerning millennials and car ownership.

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“Millennials may not be as indifferent to American car culture as is often suggested,” said Harris, based on its annual EquiTrend Study of consumer choices of the strongest brands across 10 industries, and “their aspirations for luxury are driving the U.S. automotive brand landscape.”

Seven of the top 10 car brands for millennials are luxury brands, Harris reported, versus five each for Generation X and baby boomers. The bad news is that millennials (consumers born from 1977 to 1995) actually still are less likely to own cars than older generations.

Still, Harris struck a positive tone in a press release accompanying the report.

“Millennials are changing not just what we want to drive, but how we drive and how we shop for cars,” said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at The Harris Poll. “While maybe not a full-blown romance, the flirtation with cars as part of our culture is alive and well with younger generations. Millennials aspire to luxury, and nowhere is this more evident than in the automotive industry.”

While the Harris report didn’t identify the top 10 brands for millennials specifically, the overall leading luxury brands, in order, were Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Genesis, Lexus and Porsche. Top non-luxury brands were Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, Ford, Subaru, Nissan, GMC and Mazda.

“Mercedes-Benz has millennials to thank for its brand-of-the-year status in luxury automotive,” with 72.5 percent identifying it as a top brand, Harris reported.

A previous Harris Poll indicated that “millennial car owners share many attitudes about vehicle ownership with other age groups,” according to the website And while millennials were surprised by the costs of owning a vehicle – and some believe it’s a hassle – “this doesn’t seem to affect their choice to own a vehicle or their plans to purchase one in the future.”

And, if a millennial shows up at your dealership, nerdwallet reported, they are more likely than other groups to have compared their options online beforehand.

So, get ready. The millennials may be coming to your dealership after all.

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