What’s the ideal car for the millennial generation? Well, there’s some debate as to whether Gen Y consumers want cars at all. But for those who do, Mazda has helped develop a concept that’s supposed to be perfect for millennial drivers.
Mazda recently unveiled a new concept car designed and engineered by graduate students at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. The concept, called “Deep Orange 3,” was born with the express purpose of building a vehicle for millennials, based on findings gathered from surveys of 70,000 young consumers.
The result is small and sleek—about the size of the compact Mazda3—but it stands out from the usual sports cars and commuter vehicles supposedly aimed at the millennial market in a few interesting ways:
There’s seating for six. The surveys indicated that millennials really like to travel in packs. Rather than going with the standard five-seater sedan or the stodgy minivan or SUV with space for seven or eight, Mazda’s concept car seats six—three up front, three in back. And instead of an old-fashioned bench seat in the front row, there’s a middle bucket seat that folds down when not used. Those middle seats are cramped, though, and are only big enough for “50th percentile male occupants,” as designers put it.
It’s quite stylish. Generally speaking, cars can be sporty or spacious, but not both. Millennial consumers desire a vehicle with both attributes, however, hence the Deep Orange 3 looks like a sports hatchback but manages to squeeze in six passengers if needed.
Origami is involved. The chassis consists of aluminum—which is lighter but more expensive than steel—produced using a special “origami” technique described as “a patented technology that involves folding and riveting laser cut sheets of aluminum,” by MLive.
It’s AWD, electric, and gas-powered. Because Gen Y is deemed to be exceptionally environmentally conscious while simultaneously keen on all-wheel drive, the car is equipped with what the team calls a “parallel hybrid powertrain concept.” A turbocharge 4-cylinder internal combustion engine powers the front wheels, while a lithium-battery-powered electric motor takes care of the rear wheels. “This configuration allows for regenerative braking, all-wheel-drive and power boost functionality,” the Deep Orange site explains.
Young people probably can’t afford it. In surveys, millennial consumers by and large stated that they were not interested in basic, entry-level vehicles. Instead, the prototypical Gen Y buyer wants a car that has ample amenities and space, looks cool, features the latest technology, is fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly, and doesn’t seem at all like a cheap set of wheels for a Monday-Friday commuter. All of which is a bit problematic given that the base price for such a vehicle rises as each of these requirements is met.
“This young generation is really a difficult market,” Paul Venhovens, the Clemson professor and former BMW executive who supervised the Deep Orange project, told Automotive News. “They don’t really gravitate to econo-boxes. They seem to want what they can’t afford.”