Automakers are spending millions testing different ways to get Millennials interested in cars. They're trying focus groups, cultural experts, experimental marketing events with hipster bands, organic hors d'oeuvres and craft brews. Never mind that the Millennials can't afford to buy the cars just yet, automakers around the world are still sweating how they can keep these kids interested in cars and prevent them from beaming themselves to work through their autonomous transportation tablet app.
Local Motors has the answer: The Electric Drift Trike. This all came to light over the past few months with my 4-year-old son. I guess in marketing terms he's Generation Alpha, and his name is Casey. When I asked Casey what he wanted for his birthday, he happened to be looking at a kid awkwardly teetering on a bike, so of course his answer was, "a bike!"
I remember when I was about the same age, I insisted that my parents get me a bike. I had spotted a beautiful blue Schwinn, and it was just my size. They explained all of the reasons that I wasn't ready for a bike, but there's no stopping a stubborn 4-year-old. On my late September birthday, the bike was mine. Sure enough, by the time the snow melted in the Spring, it was too small and I couldn't ride it anymore. I still have a tinge of guilt about that, and I wasn't going to let Casey make the same mistake.
I started digging for alternatives. He already had a scooter, so that was out. I started looking at Powerwheels, but figured that would be spoiling him too much. Then, it hit me—BIG WHEELS! My brother and I loved our Big Wheels and rode them until we had holes in the wheels, but does anyone still make them? They sure do! A bit of research and $50 later, and the Radio Flyer "Big Flyer" was ours!
It's amazing rolling around the city with Casey on his big wheel. People freak out. I don't think you'd get a bigger reaction if a 4-year-old were driving a diamond-encrusted Veyron through Times Square. There is some kind of primal fun factor associated with a big wheel that just makes even the most cynical and effected people laugh. Kids crowd around and adults shout out or give him high fives. Scooters can be fun, but most of the time they're really serving as a means of convenient child mobility for the benefit of city-bound parents. They're the autonomous driver aids of kid's rolling recreational vehicles. Big wheels on the other end, are just pure fun. Scooters be damned! Big wheels are making a comeback!
While searching for the ultimate big wheel, I came across adult-sized drift trikes and became obsessed. Good news for me, our friend's at Local Motors make the Verrado Electric Drift Trike and dropped one off to a journalist friend of ours who wondered if we might be interested in keeping it at Classic Car Club indefinitely. Wait, you've got an electric drift trike and you'd like us to "look after it" for you?? I think I was at his office loading up the 75lb box into our jeep no less than 8 minutes after he called.
The next day was Friday and Fridays are when Casey spends the morning with me working at Classic Car Club. I told him we had something special to work on that day. We cracked open the big box, with a clever label that read "At Local Motors, we try to think outside of the box. However, due to shipping regulations, here's your NEW Verrado in a box". Minutes later our Verrado, which thankfully shipped with a fully charged battery, was ready to roll. Like Casey's big wheel, this thing is an absolute blast and people love it. We need to get out to more open space to master it, but so far it's good for some killer spins an our epoxy coated garage floor and great for terrorizing everyone on nearby sidewalks.
So, Automakers, want to get Millennials more interested in your cars? How about Gen X, or Gen Alpha, like Casey? A contrived plan to associate your cars with music they like or stuffing them with farm to table treats isn't going to do it. You need to remind them that getting a car sets you free and driving can be fun. I rode everywhere on my big wheel and when I grew out of that, it was bikes but eventually, a car. Every step along the way represented a bigger circle of freedom and more excitement getting where I wanted to go. So stop with all the ways to make your cars "connected" to the online world and adding more and more tech that bring's the driving experience closer to riding the couch. Focus on the real, tangible "offline" driver experience and highlight the fact that driving can be really fun. Do what Local Motors did—build a kick ass electric drift trike that reminds everyone how exciting it was the first time they took control of a set of wheels.