• May 8, 2006
Continued gas price hikes have intensified media coverage on subcompacts like the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and upcoming Nissan Versa. Bloomberg's Doron Levin, though, questions if young Americans will truly embrace the 'Small is Beautiful' trend.
He points out that today's young people don't necessarily see 'inexpensive' and 'gets great gas mileage' as top priorities for their vehicles. According to a study by automotive analysts, such buyers feel a sense of entitlement fostered by their parents. Levin's own daughter rejected a perfectly running Ford Taurus and rode with friends until given a Chevrolet Blazer.

Levin does address the lone exception, Scion. In fact, he writes that the Japanese automakers have the most experience in marketing small vehicles, and are the best equipped to persuade reluctant Americans of their validity. As the Toyota Echo showed, though, even they have had their share of flops.

What do you think of Levin's analysis? Have your say in 'Comments.'

Related: Toyota, Honda, Nissan's smallest prepped for battle; Chrysler, Ford, and GM missing the subcompact wave?

[Bloomberg via Financial Express]


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  • 55 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Psych101,

      I missed the "fuel-efficient" qualifier in your suggestion that high-school students drive SUVs, and thus mistook you for a high-school mom rationalizing her decision to put her 16-year-old in a Tahoe. So I responded to what I perceived as one extreme suggestion with the opposite extreme.

      Small SUVs and (more so) compact wagons are, I agree, ideal first cars.

      There's clearly a regional disconnect here, too. I live in California's Bay Area, and it's easy to react strongly to "put-your-kid-in-an-SUV" statements when you commute with 16-year-olds in Land Rovers and Mercedes M-Classes whose sense of entitlement on the road exceeds their driving skill and experience. Though most of us had cars in high school, walking, buses, or taxis did the job just as well *in this area.*
      • 8 Years Ago
      How will this generation be any different than any previous generation? The youth generation is not all the same and our vehicle choices will reflect that. Frankly, college is only for four years, so unless you intend to get an old beater for just those four years, it is wise to think ahead. What should college bound students get in terms of newer cars? You can't just say this car is good and this type isn't, it will never be that simple.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Not only does Levin's daughter sound like a brat, she doesn't sound terribly bright. Assuming the Taurus she rejected was built after 2000, she's passed on a "boring" yet reliable vehicle with good fit and finish inside, not to mention ample space for her Abercrombie & Fitch purchases and her equally vain friends. The Taurus also would've been a better bargain not only on gas, but insurance and maintenance as well.

      I was afraid to go where hj (#11) treaded, but I can at least agree that there's been some spineless parenting going on. Levin should've made his daughter earn towards the car she wanted.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The "SUVs for college students" rationale is great except for one point - why SUVs? It only (sort of) solves one half of the problem: people space. It fails on: cheap gas, cheap insurance, safety.

      If anything, a college student should be driving something like a:

      Scion Xa or Xb
      Mazda 3 5 door or Protege5
      Honda Fit
      Chrysler PT Cruiser or Dodge Caliber
      Chevy HHR
      Any minivan

      Too bad the list isn't any longer. What's needed for this crowd (and at 33, I'm not *so* far away from it) is something both affordable to run *and* large enough to take a bunch of people. Unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of choices in this area (5+ door, small engine, cheap, and built on a car platform), whereas there are tons of SUV choices.

      FWIW, my college car was a 1985 Nissan Sentra Diesel (55hp, 40+ mpg with 4 bikes on the roof)
      • 8 Years Ago
      ‘‘Actually, the latest wave of buyers is very self-centered, very confident and have a sense of entitlement.’’

      This is something that's been happening for years. What a sad state of mind we impair our children with. That's why 16 year old brats refuse free cars, why college grads refuse job offers making less than $50k a year and why these same 30 year old college brats come back home to live with mumsy and daddie. Do you really think you're helping your child by raising them this way???
      • 8 Years Ago
      #32 - I'm gonna have to disagree on it being a good idea to put someone with
      • 8 Years Ago
      Each year I participate in 'Enrichment Day' at one of the local middle schools. Last time I was there I saw some sweet young thing wearing a T-shirt that said:

      SAW IT
      WANTED IT
      THREW A FIT
      GOT IT!!

      Thinking about my own niece's demands for a new Honda for her 16th birthday (yeah, she got it), this just about sums it up!

      • 8 Years Ago
      i am not sure entire generations can be classified like this. Within any generation there are people who are touch oriented. Those people will love a Honda Fit but will have trouble with most cars in the domestic line up. Some people beleive that each gallon of gas has a little bit of American blood in it (where does the money go?). Other people don't see anybody's blood but their own. Some people care about competence. Other people do not. A commuter is a weak position - almost an economic refugee. Some people refuse to show weakness because they have seen weakness attacked. Maybe that is why the author's daughter wants to drive an SUV. I am not so sure that is a generational thing.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I guess it depends more on what you can afford. If mommy and daddy are paying for it, why wouldn't you hold out for more?
      • 8 Years Ago
      JH, it sounds like you grew up in the same environment as I did. The bus system in Galveston, TX was completely impractical and unforgivably inefficient. It took me about 45 minutes to ride the bus to my after-school job, but 15 to ride my bike. Needless to say, I kept perfectly fit by choosing the latter option. But the weather is pretty much always nice down there. I would not have been so keen on riding my bike to work or school if I had lived in Fargo, ND...
      • 8 Years Ago
      My opinion is that younger people love their Minis, RSXs, Jettas, Golfs, Imprezas and the like. Out of college students I’m friends with one girl loves her Hummer H3 as much another does her SVT Focus. Two of my 14 year old brother’s favorite cars are the PT Cruiser and the Jaguar XJS, two very different vehicles on the size scale. There’s nothing inherent in being young that determines what size vehicle they drive. Young people are more concerned with the style of the vehicle and how it fits their personality. Some people want to appear larger then life in a Slade while other people want to be boy racer in an STI. I still haven’t figured out what Xb drivers are trying to say.

      Now if the question is more of the Yaris, Fit, and Versa class I think it’s a question of price. Some people refuse to buy used so if all they can afford is a Versa (even if they really can’t afford that) they’re going to get a Versa. A used Taurus may make more sense, but “used” is a deal breaker.

      Judging from reviews I think the Fit may be able to break through being merely a cheap car into being an enthusiast car. I’m in my 20s and I’d like to give it a test drive. My greatest complaint with the otherwise phenomenal progress in car design is their ever increasing mass. I’d love to have Colin Chapman’s opinion on the 300C SRT8 and I can imagine what he’d say. You don’t have to drive a shoe box to decrease mass and even the dimensionally restrained Audi A3 is a porker underneath the girdle. Still, the easiest way to improve vehicle dynamics is to start with a smart package. Millionaire poseurs can spring for an obscenely bloated Veyron while true drivers enjoy their small car. Young people get that.
      • 8 Years Ago
      First and formost no matter the size it has to look good/appeal to it's target audience. The Mazda 3 is a small vehicle and it looks really good. Getting good gas mileage is a nice plus but if you are buying a small car you can expect 30-40 highway in any smallish car. Doesn't the Corolla get 40mpg highway. Other than being cheaper as a new car why buy a Fit or Yaris? My kids will get used cars anyway, better off with a used Corolla, Civic, Mazda 3/6 or Subaru Impreza than a new Yaris, Fit and so on.
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