If you hang around enough car shows, concours, and collector car events, you’ll hear a not-so-subtle tinge of disappointment from the grey-haired population concerning the next generation of car enthusiasts, or lack thereof. As the baby boomers age and enter the sunset years of their lives, it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to understand and adjust to the future of automotive enthusiasm. For those who focus on the blue-chip market, or investment grade vehicles, their concern is different: they have no interest in losing money on their stock. But for those who are genuinely concerned about the future of the community: I’ve got some advice to help.
If you’re looking to increase your demographic reach, you’ve got to adapt. Young people who are interested in cars are just like previous generations with the same passion: they love the cars that adorned their bedroom walls, broke records on the track, and were on the fore-front of technology. Understanding this is key and one of the easiest ways to attract younger people is to incorporate the categories that they are interested in: modern classics from the 80’s and early 90’s mixed in with the classically beautiful sports, muscle, and exotics from previous generations.
Let’s think about the stereotypical car show environment: closed public street, park, or golf course with a terrible DJ who, instead of doing his job, decides to take a nap and puts on ‘50s on 5 to cover the show. Nobody wants to listen to oldies music — especially when it is so loud, you end up shouting at the owners to ask questions or compliment their ride. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for music. But hiring a DJ or inviting a radio station that understands there isn’t a dance party going on is key — also, finding an unoffensive mix of classic rock, pop, and anything else is a great place to start. Better yet, conducting interviews with owners about their cars is a great way to break-up the silence and provide interesting background noise.
The easiest thing to do to increase your youth attendance and involvement is ask for feedback from younger people who are interested in cars. Personally, I’m not into ‘50s American stuff, which makes up most of the small-town car shows, but I appreciate all types of cars and so do most enthusiasts. Flyers are still a great tool for advertisements in local businesses, but the majority of people find their event information online or through word of mouth. Since word of mouth isn’t quite an option yet, developing a presence for your show or event on social media is crucial to connect with young people.
Social media is a scary phrase for a lot of baby boomers, but find a way to make it work and find someone who can do a half-decent job of marketing your event on social media — even if it comes to spending a couple of bucks for their time. You’ll be better off spending your money there than you would in flyers, newspaper ads, or other traditional media.
Also, a quick note: social media does not just mean Facebook. Demographically, Facebook is predominantly a 35+ crowd. You’ve got to get more creative by leveraging newer social mediums, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
However, the big question remains: How can we get younger people excited about turn-of-the-century and pre-war cars?
The answer is simple: Let nature run its course. Getting young people in the door, so to speak, will increase the reception of and interest in older cars. The valuable ones will make their way to collections of the future, just like fine art. The less-valuable ones will find themselves traded among a small community of people who want to preserve the past, just like generations before us.
[Photo Credit: Patrick Glace]