Gen Z is a considerable population — about 90.55 million. One-third of the generation was of car-buying age as of last summer – as appearing in F&I and Showroom magazine

By Imran Mussani, Vice President, Operations, for MaximTrak Division of RouteOne.

You’re probably seeing Gen Z buyers now connecting with you, typically first by digital and then by phone or in-person, as the generation has become of vehicle-buying age.

Sixty-three percent of this group, men and women born since 1996, will buy a used car rather than new model.[1] This may be one reason that Lending Tree reports Gen Z has the least and the lowest auto debt, with the median loan balance $13,666[2].

Gen Z is a considerable population — about 90.55 million, noted statistics company Statista[3].  One-third of the generation was of car-buying age as of last summer, a Ford Motor Company blog reports.[4]

Pew Research called these consumers the “always-on” generation. “By the time they were in their teens…they connected with the web through mobile devices, WiFi and high-bandwidth cellular,” Pew noted in early 2019.[5] 

The Marchex Institute, a mobile advertising analytics company, said its research revealed that Gen Z shoppers “do not prefer digital-only interactions.” Instead, they’re a “click-to-call” shopper after first completing their online research. Thus, these consumers are inclined to interact with you across multiple platforms, from digital retail, mobile, and in-person.

Two actions should be considered based on these data points:

One, how are you addressing your store’s digital footprint to enable Gen Z convenient access to your F&I product offerings, using the connection and communications platforms they prefer?

Two, what modifications to your in-store customer engagement practices should be adjusted or reinvented to put Gen Z at ease, in control, and well-attended to when they visit the showroom?

Online magazine Retail TouchPoints, citing data from the IBM Institute for Business Value in collaboration with the National Retail Federation, provides insight into these buyers’ engagement  expectations:

  • 66% shop brick and mortar
  • 75% use mobile to shop
  • 48% use mobile apps to shop
  • 49% said “ability to find what I want quickly” is important
  • 36% want speedy shopping

For F&I, these buyer preferences suggest:

  • No more digital retail excuses: Migrate variable and fixed operations to digital. Though end-to-end digital retail is the industry’s goal, remember these consumers still ask to engage with businesses in person. Make F&I product information, menus, and purchase options accessible online and on mobile to aide their research, comparison, push to their social network to get their communities’ endorsement.
  • Educate and differentiate online: Push your product presentation online. Provide valuable product and product value insight using PDF documents, infographics, explainer videos and chat services to engage Gen Z where they shop. Engage them in interactive lifestyle and risk surveys to help more confidently match products to needs. Push these digital merchandising tools to them as you gather contact information.
  • Be where they look: Reach this “always on” buyer across multiple channels, using AI, chatbots or virtual assistants on your website, social media, car-listing sites and elsewhere Gen Z researches inventory and dealerships to keep the conversation moving forward.
  • Put them in control: Enable web and mobile-enabled product menus Gen Z can consider on their time, at their pace, “playing” with options that interest them. Restaurants are having upsell success doing so for their business. “If a common addition to a cheeseburger is bacon, a kiosk can offer messaging that gives customers the chance to add bacon to their burger for an upcharge,” said the blog, “How Do Self Service Kiosks Impact Sales?” at TouchSuite.com, a point-of-sale technologies provider.[6]
  • Be transparent: This means full disclosure, complete explanation of any documents or paperwork you ask them to sign, and consistent messaging and pricing – from online messaging to the prices they’re quoted by the F&I office.
  • Improve phone skills: the Marchex study reported that Gen Z consumers are 60% more likely to hang up the phone if not answered within 45 seconds – and are 30% more likely to curse if they feel their needs are not being met.
  • Reinvent your meet-and-greet: Assume these consumers have done their homework and made their decisions – but be open to suggesting options. Teach and show them, but answer them quickly, sharing accurate and reliable content. Put on a service-first attitude.Gen Z’s visit stores because they value high touch as an important complement to the high-tech, they use first to connect.

Dealers today have a choice of F&I technologies to engage, satisfy and sell to Gen Z buyers. Use yours to educate this audience to help them understand what your products do and how they will benefit by their purchase – and do this online across multiple communications channels.

When you use digital, interactive and transparent devices to engage Gen Z’s hands and minds in the product evaluation and decision process, they will feel in control, a high need for the Gen Z car buyer.  Provide consumers with an individualized product match to their risk and lifestyle characteristics and product penetration and PVR will increase.

Imran Mussani is Vice President, Operations, for MaximTrak Division of RouteOne.


[1] “Driving? The Kids Are So Over It,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2019, referenced Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, https://www.mema.org/%E2%80%8Bdriving-kids-are-so-over-it and other online sources citing J.D. Power.

[2] Jenn Jones, “Auto Loan Statistics,” Lending Tree, June 24th, 2019 https://www.lendingtree.com/auto/debt-statistics/

[3] “Resident population in the United States in 2017, by generation,” Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/797321/us-population-by-generation/

[4] “It’s Not all about Millennials; Gen Z Drivers Help Make Subcompact Utility the Fastest-Growing Auto Segment,” Ford Media Center, May 22, 2018, https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2018/05/22/its-not-all-about-millennials-gen-z-drivers.html

[5] Michael Dimock, president, Pew Research Center, “Defining Generations: Where Millennials End and Gen Z Begins, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/

[6] Alex Gomez, “How Do Self Service Kiosks Impact Sales?” TouchSuite, May 6, 2019,  https://touchsuite.com/how-do-self-service-kiosks-impact-sales/