The carmaker’s Australian divisional manager Peter McGregor says Gen-Y are expected to account for 40 per cent of new car sales within 10 years
And to the brand that makes the Prius – and the baby Prius C launched this week – that means hybrid sales.
Acknowledging that sales of the Prius have steadily dropped from 3400 in 2008 to just 822 last year, McGregor said there would be a turnaround from Australian baby-boomers’ five million Gen-Y progeny who are “now adults and have substantial economic clout”.
“Our local research has shown that, apart from the innovators and early adopters who embrace hybrids, it is younger people – particularly Gen Y – who really understand hybrid technology and appreciate its benefits,” McGregor says.
“They tend to view hybrid technology as proven and reliable – and they are generally willing to pay extra to get the fuel-saving benefits.”
McGregor cites annual surveys conducted overseas by Deloitte that found the 59 per cent Gen Y preference for the fuel cost savings of hybrids could bring a tipping point for mass sales.
“Gen Y could be the generation that leads us away from traditional petrol-powered cars,” he says. “They are looking for cars that are more economical to operate than traditional petrol-powered vehicles… until now, they just haven’t been able to afford them.”
Prius chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso believes the tech-savvy thirty-somethings will find what they’re looking for in the Prius C. “We think they are looking for something small and nimble for urban driving and also a little more affordable,” he says.
Ogiso says Gen-Y is looking for a combination of technology, fun, economy and advanced safety that “matches who they are”.
And when will the change come? Any minute now, McGregor predicts, pointing to the $23,990 Prius C and the seven-seater Prius V due in May, which will add more troops to the hybrid ground currently held by the revised Prius and the new Camry Hybrid.
“I think we will realistically see hybrid volume increase this year. It has been a little longer coming than what we originally hoped for and what we had anticipated.“I think one of the reasons hybrid has not fulfilled its destiny is that we have almost been a lone voice in the market with hybrid technology.
“(But) we’re pretty much on that tipping point.”