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Not exactly a TSX article but interesting nonetheless

Jim Mateja
August 7, 2003

Want your teen to beam?

Park a Honda in the driveway and hand over the keys.

Want your teen to scowl?

Replace the Honda with a Chrysler.

You'll be told where the keys can go.

That's the finding of a nationwide survey of teens to see what brands are on their wish lists of wheels.

Honda, Volkswagen, Pontiac, Saturn and Mazda are at the top, and Toyota, Nissan, Dodge, Buick, Jeep, Mitsubishi and Chrysler are at the bottom.

The survey was conducted by the Automotive division of NFO WorldGroup, a Greenwich, Conn.-based market-research firm.

Using a point system to measure teen attitudes--120 and up highly favorable; 80 to 100 average; below 80 weak--the survey ranked Honda at 217, Volkswagen 200, Pontiac 167, Saturn 150, Mazda 150, Hyundai 100, Acura 100, BMW 100, Volvo 100, Chevy 94, Ford 94, Toyota 78, Nissan 75, Dodge 75, Buick 67, Jeep 67, Mitsubishi 50 and Chrysler 33.

Toyota, a favorite of parents, ranked low with their teenage kids.

That's not so surprising, said Andy Turton, president of NFO Automotive.

"The problem with those low-ranking brands, Toyota for example, is that they are the cars that parents drive," he said. "That's why Toyota came out with its new Scion brand aimed at appealing to teens, and why it's called Scion and not Toyota.

"Scion has only been out for a short time and while there are reports that dealers are already asking for more cars, there weren't a lot of cars available to start with, so it's too early to judge what the new brand is doing for Toyota and hard to argue how big the demand really is."

And not only did Chrysler finish last, it ranked behind Buick!

"To the teen, Chrysler is boring and has nothing to interest them. Chrysler doesn't talk to teens. With Buick there's the issue of cars that older people drive, but to the teen those older people are grandparents," he said, which lessens the negative impact.

When it comes to Honda heading the pack, Turton says, "whether by design or accident, and I suspect accident because Honda aims at an older Gen X audience, it has done well with teens. It's a car in which they can go quick and look cool. The reason is that the Civic is a vehicle that's easy to soup up with more horsepower, easy to customize with such things as wheels and headlights, and comes with a respected audio system--and teens care about sound."

As for No. 2 Volkswagen, "It's perceived as a youthful, energetic, highly styled brand with a personality. The Beetle especially is considered wacky and cute, a car teens love and women coo over," Turton said.

And No. 3 Pontiac: "Popular because of styling, with the Vibe having a strong visual presence that matters to the teen audience. Pontiac is seen as high energy yet refined and a little upscale," he said.

As for some of the others of note:

- Mitsubishi: "Teens love the advertising but they see a Galant on the street, and it doesn't connect with the brand. Only the Eclipse and Evo resonate with them."

- Saturn: "Doing a very good job. While the design isn't that appealing, the selling process comes across as simple and sincere, with customers treated like real persons."

- Mazda: "Zoom, zoom and style."

- Chevy and Ford: "In the middle of the pack but considered straightforward and honest. Teens regard themselves as savvy marketeers who have been sold to all their life and spot tricks versus honesty. These brands are respected by teens, and you have to earn a teen's respect, it isn't given to you.

"Chevy and Ford are considered sincere and credible, it's just that their product isn't seen as exciting or enticing as a VW or Pontiac. But since the product is priced more in their range, at crunch time Chevy and Ford get more teen sales than all the other brands."

Other findings: Chevy and Ford ranked highest with males, BMW and VW highest with females, and Honda had a slight female to male bias.

And whatever the brand, teens favor small cars.

"Curiously enough, they feel safer in a smaller car because they can better manage the dimensions," Turton said.

The survey focused on first car-buying intentions, stopping short of the teens traveling with parents to the lot to make a purchase, when the person holding the checkbook separates wishes from reality.

But the survey was meant as much to serve as a wake-up call to the automakers as to how effective they are in attracting the much-coveted youth as it was to learn their wants and desires. Survey results show some of the automakers are still slumbering.

And the survey didn't delve into new or used.

"That will vary by state," Turton said. "In California parents will buy teens a new car for graduation, but that's not as readily the case in the Midwest, where it's more likely a used car.",0,5524635.column
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

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"Scion has only been out for a short time and while there are reports that dealers are already asking for more cars...."

If I had a friend that told me he liked that car...I wouldn't consider him a friend.
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