As millennials continue to turn from the way previous generations have shopped in this digital age, their growing desire for luxury vehicles has surpassed older generations as well, according to the Harris Poll's 29th annual EquiTrend Study.
The report on consumer’s preferences reveals what Harris found to be the strongest brands across the automotive industry as well as the media, travel, financial, entertainment, retail, restaurant, technology, household and nonprofit industries.
“Millennials may not be as indifferent to American car culture as is often suggested — their aspirations for luxury are driving the U.S. automotive brand landscape,” The Harris Poll said.
Seven of the top 10 millennial car brands are luxury brands, compared to five each for both Generation X and baby boomers, the poll shows.
This year, Mercedes-Benz reclaimed the Luxury Automotive Brand of the Year honor from Lexus.
Up until last year, the German luxury brand steadily held the title from 2011 to 2015.
Compared to an equity rating of 66 among consumers overall, Mercedes-Benz has an equity score of 73 among millennials.
"Millennials are changing not just what we want to drive, but how we drive and how we shop for cars," Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at The Harris Poll, said in a news release. "While maybe not a full-blown romance, the flirtation with cars as part of our culture is alive and well with younger generations. Millennials aspire to luxury, and this is nowhere more evident than in the automotive industry, where they are behind Mercedes-Benz's equity strength."
Additionally, the Non-Luxury Automotive Brand of the Year title for the third consecutive year is Toyota.
The Harris Poll said “Mercedes-Benz and Toyota's equity scores rank in the top 25 percent of all brands measured, across industries.”
While the poll showed millennials deeply aspire to drive luxury brands, that admiration isn’t expected to translate into a generation of an overwhelming population of luxury vehicle owners.
Harris points out that desire doesn’t at all mean the generation is more likely to own luxury cars than older generations.
The younger generation influence on infotainment
Though not an award category, Harris said OEM infotainment equity increases each year and there's evidence that millennials are influencing the category's growth.
The poll also suggests that the industry should expect millennials to notably influence car audio, considering their preference for Beats systems over Bose, according to Harris.
Thirty-three percent of millennials are familiar with Beats, compared to 17 percent of consumers overall.
"Millennials are extremely familiar with, and think highly of, both brands, but they may more strongly associate Beats with mobility whereas they associate Bose (Home Entertainment Electronics Brand of the Year) with high-quality sound in-and-around the home," Sinopoli said.
"With the growth in car audio and infotainment equity, we see cars not-so-gradually changing from a durable to a true lifestyle purchase, a mobile business and entertainment hub," said Sinopoli.
This year’s EquiTrend Study is based on a sample of 102,617 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over.
Consumers born between 1977 and 1995 are defined as millennials, according to The Harris Poll.
A total of 4,052 brands were rated, and respondents were asked to rate 40 randomly selected brands.
Harris Poll’s complete EquiTrend Brands of the Year list can be found at http://www.theharrispoll.com/equitrend-rankings/2017.