This is an article published in a dealer advisory publication in October of 1999, one that helps car dealerships focus on the buyer mentality. I thought it was amusing to find that we are a target market, and that they have worked hard to figure us out. Let me know if you would agree with their findings.

48 Million People. That's about the population of France.
They were born between 1965 and 1977. Today's Gen Xers are 22 to 34 years old. They represent one-fifth of the U.S. population, and they buy about 23 percent of all new vehicles. Generation X is a powerful force, but it's a tough group to sell to.

In general, Gen Xers are somewhat skeptical and they don't make impulsive decisions. This actually presents an opportunity for you. If you are among the few who can recognize and overcome their somewhat wary nature, you can win the trust of your Generation X customers. In brief they are:

*savvy and self-reliant
*diverse in ethnicity and beliefs
*pessimistic about finances and future success
*distrustful of institutions, authorities, and people
*sophisticated in media and marketing
*more likely to rely on experience over reasearch
*not brand loyal

Many members of this generation delay getting married until their late 20's. When they do get married, the usually put off having kids. Generation X has the highest number of dual income households. As a result, you may encounter Gex X customers with more discretionary income than you might expect. That said, don't forget that they are not frivolous in their spending. They are cautious, pragmatic, and hard to impress.

Gen Xers consider themselves entrepreneurs in life. they approach their lives with the organized management style you'd expect from a business owner. They assume that all things contain good and bad and that trade-offs are a necessary part of life. With this in mind, they actually want to know both the good and not-so-good details about their purchases. Go ahead and address anything that might be perceived as negative about the vehicle. You'll find that this sort of frank presentation will go a long way toward building trust with Generation X.

How Did They Get That Way?
In order to understand any consumer group, you have to look at the environment that nurtured it. Unlike their predecessors, Gen Xers were surrounded by both negative and manipulating influences. The recession, government distrust, white collar crime, and AIDS are just a few of the issues that bombarded this group during their formative years.

Television also played a key role in molding their consumer personality. Perhaps more than any other previous generation, they were inundated with media and marketing. As a result, Gen Xers have a healthy distrust for any information they receive through the media. They rely instead on their own experiences to determine their likes and dislikes.

So What Are They Buying?
Six out of 10 Generation X college grads report owning a truck, but they have a real aversion to large cars. That should come as no surprise in light of their upbringing during the gas crisis, ozone alerts and legislation to regulate the automotive industry.

While they may not be buying large cars, trucks and small specialty vehicles appeal to them. The best selling Ford vehicles among this group are:

46%: Mustang
45%: ZX2
30%: Ranger
28%: Escort
25%: Explorer
25%: Contour
24%: Expedition
21%: F-150/250

If They're Cynical, How Can I Gain Their Trust?
You can begin by simplifying the sales process as much as possible. Abandon the hard sell. It won't work with Gen Xers. In addition, throwing facts and figures at them won't help them make their decision. As a matter of fact, it could muddy the waters. Gen Xers value and trust experience over research. They don't necessarily trust what they see in print, whether they get it from you or from an outside source.

This fact makes test-drives particularly effective for these customers. It puts them in control of the situation and makes them feel that they are getting firsthand knowledge on their own, without relying on spoon-fed facts. With this in mind, get the most out of your test-drive. This means Sales Consultants should present information in a manner that's appealing and useful to Gen Xers:

*Present feature benefits rather than simply discussing how "loaded" the vehicle is.
*Explain how the vehicle facilitates their lifestyle. They already assume that it's transportation, so the vehicle has to serve a purpose in their lives.
*Describe how the vehicle, the dealership, and the service department can all make their ownership experience easy and stress-free.

There's no denying that Generation X is a tough consumer group. But despite their cynicism, Gen Xers still want and need a vehicle that is a useful part of their lives. There's a Ford product to meet the needs of Generation X and, by providing them with the right sales experience, you could actually turn them into loyal Ford customers.

Now get out there and SELL, you bottom feeders!!! (Sorry, couldn't resist)

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