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ATLANTA — Although popular notions may suggest otherwise, younger consumers seem very much committed to auto ownership and find it to be not only important, but exciting, according to a recent study by AutoTrader.com of "echo boomers," the generation of people who were born between 1975 and 1991.

These consumers are also similar to their parents' generation — baby boomers — in that their vehicle preferences are geared largely toward sedan, SUVs and crossovers.

"We have heard that echos as a group are less interested in vehicle ownership than other generations and wanted to investigate those claims as it could impact the future of the auto business," shared Chip Perry, president and chief executive officer of AutoTrader.com. "The results we found were certainly contrary to the conventional wisdom."

In fact, when asked during the survey if "owning a vehicle is an important step to adulthood," 76 percent of the Echo respondents agreed.

Furthermore, 73 percent of this generation confirmed that "owning a vehicle is exciting."

Background on Echo Boomers

AutoTrader.com noted that there are approximately 77 million echo boomers, according to estimates. To get a feel for how this group ticks when it comes to autos, AutoTrader.com conducted a survey of 747 people who represented all age ranges. Almost half of the sample was echo boomers.

The generation gets their namesake from being the "echo" (i.e., children) of the baby boomer generation, AutoTrader.com spokesperson Mark Scott explained. The birth rate apparently declined during the 1960s and 1970s, but spiked when baby boomers started having children — and these children now are either at "prime earning and buying" age or about to enter that particular phase of life.

"Because the generation represents people from their late teens to early 30s, we wanted to look at them to get insight into their views of car buying and car ownership," Scott noted

"This group is also sometimes referred to as Generation Y (because they came after the Gen X'ers) or the Millennial Generation (because they started making their presence felt in the marketplace around the turn of the century)," he continued.

What Vehicles Echos Like

Much like their parents, this group leans heavily toward sedans and SUVs when it comes to possible choices for their next — or for some, their very first — auto purchase. Sedans are on the consideration list for 54 percent of Echo Boomers, while 51 percent plan to look at SUVs or crossovers.

Just 11 percent contemplate buying a station wagon, and the consideration numbers for "mini cars" and convertibles are even smaller at 8 percent each.

Some automakers have built and marketed certain vehicles — such as "boxy design" models that include the Kia Soul and Scion xB — directly to Echo Boomers, in addition to having the promotions of upcoming small-vehicle launches center around this group.

As most know, Ford utilized the social media-heavy Fiesta Movement to reach out to younger buyers as it prepared to launch the Fiesta.

These types of efforts seem to resonate to some degree with Echo Boomers, who have responded with a "fair level of interest," according to AutoTrader.com.

The Nissan Cube and Fiesta are the leaders in this specific set of vehicles, as both had 16 percent consideration levels among Echo Boomers.

The Soul was on the consideration list of 15 percent of Echo Boomers and the xB (14 percent) were also near the top of the most-considered list of vehicles targeted toward younger buyers.

Interestingly enough, these small vehicles generated more favorable responses for teens age 13 to 17.

For instance, the Fiesta has a 32 percent consideration level for this group.

This "new generation of small vehicles" fared better with teens, overall. In fact, these vehicles were found to be "very appealing" or "somewhat appealing" to 61 percent of teenagers. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of echo boomers and just 38 percent of older baby boomers said the same.

Just over a quarter (26 percent) of teenagers viewed these vehicles as "very unappealing" or "somewhat unappealing," versus 42 percent of echo boomers who had the same response.

"One big take away from this study is automakers have the opportunity to tap into significant interest in smaller cars among potential future customers who aren't yet of car-buying age but will be soon," officials noted. "The challenge will be marketing to these teenagers to keep them interested in these vehicles until they become tomorrow's car buyers."

Vehicle Features

Interestingly enough, when it comes to technological features, echo shoppers want them, but aren't so willing to shell out extra money to put them in their rides. For instance, three-fifths of the group is looking for in-car navigation. However, less than half of echos (43 percent) are willing to dole out the extra cash.

Those that would be willing to spend a little more for navigation said they could part with $208, on average, for the feature.

"Clearly, the way for automakers to interest echos is to bring them in with as much technological feature content as possible included in the base price," officials noted.

Alternative Fuels

Moving on to look at alternative-fuel vehicles, the study results indicated that consideration levels for hybrids were at 44 percent, with all-electric vehicles at 26 percent and diesel models at 26 percent.

AutoTrader.com suggests that Echo Boomers need to be further educated about diesel and electric vehicles for these segments to be successful in capturing the interests of this generation.

"For makers of diesel and electric vehicles, this shows there is still a need to raise awareness of these vehicles' environmental and other benefits and a chance to use target marketing to influence and raise consideration of these vehicles among this key demographic," the site noted.

Wrapping up the study, AutoTrader.com summed up echo boomers excitement with buying vehicles, but re-emphasized their specific interests.

"Contrary to popular opinion, echo boomers as a whole are still excited about automobile ownership. But those echos still worry about the effect vehicle ownership has on the planet, and they are willing to take steps to reduce that impact, though without giving up the car they want," officials noted.

"Echos are interested primarily in the sedans and SUVs bought by their parents and less so in the small cars supposedly designed to appeal directly to them. And echos want to have the most feature content available and want it included in the standard vehicle package," they concluded.