Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Good Luck, GM

In case you missed this article–I can’t decide if it’s frightening or hilarious–from the New York Times, here’s the gist of it: today’s youth are less interested in cars than ever before, so GM has resorted to hiring MTV to help them with their marketing. It’s genius, if you think about it. For a company to make rash, misbehaved Italian-Americans or exploited pregnant adolescents (Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant, respectively) hit shows, they have to be experts in the business of marketing. 

What’s slightly more disconcerting, though, is that trends are finally pointing towards more sustainable lifestyles, but it is in the financial interests of corporate giants like GM, and by association, MTV, to reverse this. I’m sure that the statistic that “Forty-six percent of drivers aged 18 to 24 said they would choose Internet access over owning a car” would be even higher within university student demographics–those who theoretically will have the most buying power in the coming decades. What if the choice not to own a car isn’t one just of opportunity cost (if they made car and parking payments, they couldn’t pay their iPhone bill or go on a vacation) but one of values? What if cars are no longer a priority for the Millenial generation because of the ethics behind the source of their oil, or the pollutants they emit, or the time they waste in gridlock? 


Even if Chevy releases it’s small and efficient vehicles like the Spark in “techno pink,” “lemonade,” and “denim,” I have a hard time believing that people will be buying it for the color. Today’s hyper-aware youth clearly are not as interested in the brand as the bottom line, and with Chevy’s recently troubled history, it’s going to take a lot more than a coat of paint to change their minds. What will, though, is less visits to the pump. 

The reverse migration back into the city by the Millenial generation is proof enough that the car cannot be saved by television. Yes, we will still watch MTV and yes advertising will have some effect on GM’s sales, but ultimately it isn’t about GM. They’re going to have to change the current opinion about the car as a consumer item, and prove that Zipcar and other car-sharing platforms are not sufficient. With increasing investment and attention being paid to these alternative forms of automobile use, I wish MTV luck. 


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