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It’s Not All About Millennials; Gen Z Drivers Help Make Subcompact Utility The Fastest-Growing Auto Segment

-U.S. sales of subcompact SUVs among 18- to 24-year-olds are projected to surpass sales of subcompact cars as early as 2019
-Gen Z drivers discover fast-growing subcompact SUVs are an affordable first-car option; 2,840 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. bought a subcompact SUV in 2017 – a 541 percent increase in just four years
-More than 11 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds who bought an SUV last year opted to choose from the smallest SUV segment in the U.S. – up from 2 percent in 2012


The music is different and fashion senses change. But when it comes to driving, the young adults who make up Gen Z – people born after 1995 – share plenty with their parents and grandparents. They love SUVs.

Gen Z makes up more than one-quarter of the U.S. population. Nearly one-third have reached driving age and are already having an impact on the auto industry. Despite their reputation for being a ride-share-loving generation, 92 percent own or plan to own a vehicle – according to a 2016 study by KBB/Autotrader.

As to what type of vehicle today’s youngest drivers covet, many are already shifting away from once-popular subcompact cars and gravitating toward the still-young subcompact SUV segment. Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst, projects that U.S. sales of subcompact SUVs among 18- to 24-year-olds will surpass those of subcompact cars by as early as next year.

“Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials – everybody wants their SUV, and Gen Z is no different,” Merkle said. “As more new small SUVs like Ford EcoSport become available, you’ll see the subcompact SUV segment continue to climb as a popular new car of choice for first-time buyers.”  

Just four years ago, 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States purchased 8,121 subcompact cars and only 443 subcompact SUVs. In 2017, that same age group purchased 3,981 subcompact cars and 2,840 subcompact SUVs – a 541 percent spike for subcompact SUVs.

Ford EcoSport, which reached North American showrooms earlier this year as the newest entry in the field, is now one of nine vehicles competing in the fast-growing subcompact SUV space. Fuel-efficient and with the cargo space young drivers desire, EcoSport comes at a price many Gen Z consumers can consider over the traditional used-car route for their first ride. Available for a starting price under $20,000*, EcoSport is equipped with a 1.0-liter EcoBoost® engine and returns an EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined rating and a range of up to 381 miles per tankful.

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