I recently attended the National Street Rod Association’s (NSRA) Nationals in Louisville, KY, where nearly 11,000 enthusiasts showcased their automobiles. The cars & trucks were restorations or kits from the 1930’s all the way up through the 80’s. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the event, checking out these killer rides, and having meaningful hang time with the hundreds of aftermarket companies sharing their parts & services with the crowds. As a member of the SEMA Board of Directors, and chair of its Marketing Task Force, it was fulfilling to have one on one discussions with our membership to see how they’re faring during these tough economic & legislative times. I was pleasantly surprised with the cautious optimism. But there was one part of the experience that woke me up to a startling reality.
I stood near the gate where attendees entered the event, just checking out the crowds, and was totally dismayed by the lack of youth in attendance. In fact, I’d venture to say 90% of the people there were in their mid 60’s or older. Nothing wrong with that crowd…they’ve got the discretionary income to actually go out & buy somethin’, but folks, we as an industry are going to have to proactively find ways to bring a passion for the automobile back among America’s youth, or face pretty dire consequences.
Here’s a scarier view: My generation (the end of the baby boomer age group) achieved their first major milestone in life by actually passing the “big” test, getting their driver’s licenses, and saving up to get their own cars. Then, we set out to personalize those rides, so that they made an immediate statement about what kind of person we were. Mine was a sporty little Austin Healy Sprite, and if you are a boomer like me, I’m sure you remember yours. Ahhh, we were finally able to go pick up our friends & experience a much anticipated freedom. WooHoo…we had wheels!
Reality check: Today’s kids don’t have to have wheels at all in order to be totally active in each other’s social lives. They can text, they can skype, they can compete with each other among 100’s of online video games from across the street or on the other side of the ocean. Who needs wheels? In fact, statistics show that as the technology behind social media advances (almost daily), kids are waiting longer and longer to get their drivers licenses or even think about getting behind the wheel of a car. Most know they can’t afford the car payment, the insurance, or the price of the gas anyway. Heck, in many family’s, their parents are already car-pooling anyway to save on expenses.
For those of us whose livelihoods depend upon a consumer’s passion for the automobile, this information is downright scary. In fact, a few days after returning from the NSRA event, I did one of those 3:00 AM epiphanies, and realized I had to reach out to the SEMA Education Director and suggest we conduct a seminar on this very subject. Yes, the 2010 seminar planning phases for SEMA had been completed, and yes, it was really too late to try & put a new one together…but also yes, everyone agreed that the topic held such relevance that we simply needed to make it happen.
SO, please make every effort to attend the following educational seminar on Thursday, November 4 from 9:30 AM-10:30 AM at the Las Vegas Hilton Convention Center in the upstairs of Central Hall:
How To Revitalize our Youth’s Love Affair With the Automobile. (& Why It Is Vital To our Industry’s Future). – facilitated by Zan Martin. Panelists include:
Chris Douglas-VP of Marketing, COMP Performance Group
Stacey David- Host & Producer, Stacey David’s GearZ
Justin Choi – President : Cie Studios, Inventor of online game- Car Town
Myles Kovacs-Pres & co-founder: DUB Magazine
If you cannot make the seminar, but are interested in a PPT copy, feel free to contact Brian Zembrycki at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will make sure you get a copy.