Millennials and GM: What can we learn?

There’s an article in the NYT about GM’s outreach to young adults. They’ve got a problem almost as big as Christianity:

In 2008, 46.3 percent of potential drivers 19 years old and younger had drivers’ licenses, compared with 64.4 percent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers ages 21 to 30 drove 12 percent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.

That’s a 25% decline in a decade, even worse than the decline in the Episcopal Church. The article presents some of the problems with adapting to contemporary culture: the proposed colors (techno-pink, lemonade, denim) will take at least a year before they’re in production, and cars themselves take three years from design to production. So the problems with dashboards will be around for awhile:

“They think of a car as a giant bummer,” said Mr. Martin. “Think about your dashboard. It’s filled with nothing but bad news.”

Kevin Drum comments: “I dunno. I’m 53 years old, and even I’m not feeling the hipness. More like the stink of fear.”

There have been earlier comparisons between corporations like GM and Kodak and the church, but perhaps this comparison is even more instructive. To put it in marketing terms, the “nones” just don’t want our product, and changing liturgical colors (or style, or music) won’t make any difference.

On the other hand, the Episcopal Church never had GM’s market share. We’re something of a niche product, and perhaps, by doing better at communicating what we are about might bring positive results.

 

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One thought on “Millennials and GM: What can we learn?

  1. “On the other hand, the Episcopal Church never had GM’s market share. We’re something of a niche product, and perhaps, by doing better at communicating what we are about might bring positive results.”

    Yup, pretty much.

    This also came up in the comments to the GM article, but it applies even more in the arena of spirituality and religion: There’s a big difference between pandering to younger people, vs. genuinely listening to them and then thinking about how you might be able to better serve them. GM has clearly taken the “pandering” route, and I don’t expect that to go so well for them. I would imagine that eventually younger people probably will start buying cars again. I also imagine that a significant proportion of those cars will be Fords, Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, and Volkswagens–pretty much anything but GM and Chrysler.

    Of course, if the trend of Millennials driving less actually continued as we age, that would probably be a good thing for the planet anyway, at least until all cars are powered by electricity generated from solar or nuclear power. I suppose some might say the same about Millennials abandoning Christianity, but we’d part company there.

    Mainline churches don’t need to be “hip.” They need to be genuine.

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