Friday, March 23, 2012

Can GM rekindle young consumers' interest in cars?

Amy Chozick’s NY Times story – 3/22/12 is an eye-opener. GM is reaching out to MTV execs to step up its game with the youngsters.

It’s difficult for a late boomer generation male like me, who grew up in a car-loving family in the car-dependant suburbs, to wrap my head around this: Young American consumers are losing interest in the automobile.

As far back as the automobile has existed, it’s been a vehicle for escape. We couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel because doing so meant getting away. Car keys equal freedom.

We were into muscle cars. The conversation was all about the size of your “motor” and whether you were packing mechanical or hydraulic lifters, or whether your dual exhaust tips were connected to a true dual exhaust system. Now the car itself seems to be of no interest to the 18-24 crowd. They want to know what digital toys it has.

I can understand that with social media and all the new ways young people now have to connect, they may be less dependent on cars. But do they, as Ross Martin of Viacom suggests in Amy’s piece, think of a car as a “giant bummer?” I guess it depends on the car. If it’s a banged up Hyundai Accent, yeah that’s pretty much a bummer. But I think GM's problem is the same problem they've had for a long time now. Their products are either priced out of reach of the entry-level 18-24 consumer, or they are stripped down "losermobiles" that practically scream, "Hey, go next door to the Kia or Scion store. You'll find something better."

Are high gas prices and ridiculous insurance premiums for 17-24 year-old drivers to blame? Certainly neither is helping matters. Consider also that for consumers in this age bracket, money is tight. Even the cheapest new car is pretty expensive. And driving is - shall we say - not much fun these days.

I think we’ve finally come to a fork in the road. Will this lack of interest continue to trend downward? Will the youngest drivers prefer to drive something old and funky, or nothing at all? It will be very interesting indeed to see if GM can really make the necessary cultural changes to make their cars appealing again to young consumers? Those wheels turn awfully slow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Please save us, Don Draper, from crap TV.

Have you noticed just how incredibly crappy TV has become?

Sure, there are lots of ways to avoid network television - the premium cable networks - HBO, Showtime, etc. Then there's pay-per view and Netflix. I get it, but sometimes you just want to veg out with some regular old major network TV.

Problem is, it's all such crap. When the lesser of all evils is The Celebrity Apprentice, which for some reason is stretched to 2 hours, you know you're in trouble. I don't know about you, but I could really use a break from the "housewives with gay male friends who find stuff in storage lockers, then pawn it and prospect for gold in Alaska" or some variation thereof.

This Sunday will bring us the long-awaited new season of Mad Men. It's been a long wait, indeed. I'm ready for style, good writing, great acting. Something that's actually worth watching. And can you believe this is a show that struggled to find an audience? What does that tell you about us as a society? I'm ready, Don Draper, for you to save me from crap TV!