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Ramble On – Life at 20

Generation Z: What They're Doing Right

Sep 23, 2019
Photo 2/4   |   2019 Nissan Frontier S Front Quarter

Fun fact: With starting prices at less than $20,000, Nissan sells the least expensive new sedan (Versa) and pickup (Frontier), as well as one of the cheapest crossovers (Kicks), in the U.S. market. Unsurprisingly, that makes Nissan a disproportionally popular brand among some of the most important consumers in the country: Generation Z. Keen to explore that dynamic, we gratefully accepted an invitation to head out to Miami and partake in what Nissan called Life at 20, a college vacation-themed entr e into some of the company's cheapest products.

And while we enjoyed our time in the incredibly well-equipped Versa, nimble Kicks, and charming Frontier, the lingering takeaway was our time spent in "Generation Z School," a class proctored by industry analyst Ed Kim from AutoPacific.
Photo 3/4   |   Nisssan Life At 20 Generation Z School 02

When considering successive generations, it's all too easy to point at all the ways they're worse than your own. To wit, my fellow Millennials and I have gotten a bad rap for killing various industries, being lazy and entitled, and living at home when we should be entering "the real world." Of course, the reasons for those broad-brush generalizations and mistruths are much more complex than one might think. So to that end, I'd like to defend Gen Z for a second.

First off, and very commendably in my eye, a higher percentage of Generation Z folks who own automobiles identify as enthusiasts than other generations, according to AutoPacific. That's right, less than five years after pundits accused Millennials of killing cars, Generation Z is swooping in and snapping up enthusiast-approved machines. What's more, many of them are actually choosing to purchase manual-shift vehicles, partly for budgetary and partly for fun-loving reasons. That's music to my ears!
Photo 4/4   |   Nisssan Life At 20 Generation Z School 01

And unlike their style- and brand-conscious Baby Boomer parents and grandparents, Generation Z doesn't attach much value to the badge on a vehicle or the label on a shirt tag. According to Kim and AutoPacific, Generation Z experiences financial stress as a given—they experienced the Great Recession at a very young age, and rising housing and college costs are at the forefront of Gen Z's budgetary mind. That very likely bodes well for the long-term financial health of the generation; they won't be apt to overspend or put too much on credit.

The Life at 20 generation is also likely to be the most educated cohort yet, pursuing higher education (and alternatives like skilled trade and technical training) more than Millennials. Generation Z also values face-to-face communication and online relationships at rates beyond their forebears. And folks in this age group tend to be more entrepreneurial and willing to take professional risks, a boon in today's gig-leaning economy.
On a more philosophical level, there's a lot to recommend Generation Z. People in this age bracket are loyal, compassionate, and open-minded. They tend to be much more ethnically diverse, and more of them are multiracial than any other generation. This ethnic and sociological diversity enables them to see shades of gray more easily, and they tend to prioritize "us" over "me."
Sure, if all you pay attention to are YouTube videos featuring Tide Pods and fearmongering bulletins on cable news channels, it's natural to feel a sense of disdain for Generation Z. But insofar as actual data is concerned, I'm kind of looking forward to handing the reins over to the kids who tend to be financially and socially conscious, independent and entrepreneurial, and (most importantly) able to drive a stick shift. Life at 20 feels just fine to me.

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