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Home Car Culture Road to 2030: Classic car future will be determined by millennials and...

Road to 2030: Classic car future will be determined by millennials and electrics

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Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a 6-part series examining where the collector car hobby is headed in the next decade and beyond. Read the rest of the series hereRoger Falcione is the founder, president and chief executive of ClassicCars.com.

Roger Falcione

Ten years ago, the world was recovering from one of the worst recessions in modern history. Within a year, the improving economy and extremely low interest rates – coupled with some pent-up demand – sent collector car prices on the rise.

Today, the economy has fully recovered and even though sale prices have stalled recently, collector cars have had a great run. But a new challenge now faces the car world. 

It’s not financial. It’s generational.

The Baby Boomers played a big part in boosting the car market back to where it is today. They were the driving force behind the rebound. The problem is Boomers are getting older. The oldest boomers are 72 and they are selling more and buying less. 

Today’s buyers are known as Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1979, they tend to have more interest in cars from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Much like the boomers’ muscle cars, these are the cars with which they grew up, worked on with their parents or friends and made memories. 

Unlike Boomers, teenage freedom and privacy from parents for Gen Xers arrived in an imported car – likely from Japan – instead of in a Ford Mustang. As they grow to be the dominant buyers in the market, it won’t come as a shock when we see the stock of the traditional muscle car plateau and even drop over time.

The real riddle going forward is the millennial generation and the rising tide of electric cars. By 2030, millennials will be between 36 and 50, typically when most classic car hobbyists start to get involved. They are the largest generation to date, but questions continue to linger about how they’ll use their buying power.

Unlike past generations, most millennials will likely have grown up without the memories of working on a car with a family member. They’re accustomed to technological developments that can alter an industry in months, not years or decades. As their use of ride-share apps and, though it’s still decades away, fully autonomous cars, they very well could be the generation that turns cars back into what they were originally intended to be.

By definition, a car is simply a means of transportation. They are made to get people from one place to another. Everything else – and I mean everything else – is purely personal; how it drives, how it looks, the comfort level, what memories it holds. If millennials look at a car more as a tool than an extension of who they are, will that not impact what a car may be worth in the future?

Then there’s electrification. Every manufacturer has a plan for electric vehicles. Some marques, such as Volvo, plan to be fully electric within a decade. 

Semi-autonomous vehicles are here already, and fully autonomous cars are inevitable. But this doesn’t mean the death of the gas-powered car or driving. Most of these cars are made for well-marked city roads and there are thousands of miles out there that don’t meet that standard. There’s also the fact that, despite what some may claim, millennials enjoy driving. It is up to us to share our love of cars with them and involve them more in car related events.

As all of this unfolds, by 2030 we will likely see a drop in the run-of-the-mill classic sales. I’m not talking about the high-end cars because there will still be a market for them. It’s more the driver-quality, pre-mid-‘70s cars that simply may no longer interest a large enough portion of that generation.

For millennials, could electric cars become the next hot-ticket item? By 2030, Tesla’s roadster will be 21 years old. The original Model S will be 18. As long as they are physically maintained, there could be some interest among millennials who want a shot at owning something dated.

There could also be a massive market shift like nothing the car world has ever seen. Most electric cars do not change much and, in fact, could do away with model years altogether. 

A 2012 Tesla, thanks to the internet, has the exact same software as one that just rolled off the production line (except for hardware and software related to autonomous driving). One doesn’t have to go out and get the latest model year to get the most updated technology. What matters to future generations may not be the physical body of the car, but the capabilities of the software it runs.

Big events like Monterey Car Week could breathe more life into the collector car hobby. Numerous manufacturers have used the event to roll out new models alongside classic examples. Who knows? In the future, seeing these two cars together could motivate a millennial to pick up a vintage model instead.

I don’t want to paint a grim future for classic cars because, frankly, I don’t think the future is dim. I think there’s plenty of room among the millennial generation for both gas-powered and modern-day electric cars, especially as the new generation of car enthusiasts grows older and develops more of an appreciation for collector vehicles. 

I do, however, recognize that change will now happen far more rapidly and we’ll all have to work harder to adjust to that.

17 COMMENTS

  1. When is someone going to do a show about cars people can afford driver quality classics 15 to 25,000 what to look for where to find them what’s a goodbye and what’s not all the shows we watch are nothing but a dream for most people looking forward to your comment and response

    • When’s someone going to post a comment using completely, grammatically correct sentences, proper punctuation, and meaningful breakdown of coherent thought?

  2. When you go to local car shows, most of the owners are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. The high end vehicles (over $250k) will always have a market because they are viewed by their owners as not only a vehicle but also a part of their overall investment portfolio in which the vehicle is part of their overall diversification strategy.

    The average Joe who has maybe at most a $50k vehicle is going to find that the value of the vehicle will decline over the next 10 years as the market is flooded with vehicles from the individuals mentioned above, potentially significantly depending upon the length and depth of the next recession. The inventory is going to grow significantly because of the owners who either realize their time is short and they want to convert their asset to cash, they need the cash for medical and or long term care, or they are no longer are able to drive. The only hope that this won’t happen is if they for some reason just park the car and let it sit until the husband and wife both pass. This scenario will lead to some interesting "barn finds" in 20 years or so, and really would only slow the decline in the value of collector cars negligibly

    The bottom line is that their kids – now 35-60 – have huge mortgages that they are paying, huge college payments looming, spiraling medical costs and trying to save as much as possible for their own retirement since by 2030 there are going to be significant changes to social security that will significantly cut future benefits for those under 45 at that time. If there was a way to short the collector car business today in about 5 to 7 years from now, (like shorting stocks) then I would be all in.

    If you think that Millennials are going to save your butt, think again. Remember they are the first generation born with electronic devices in their hands from early life. A vehicle is only a means for them to get from point A to point B. These kids are very smart. They are not going to invest their hard earned money in an investment that the likelihood will be they will lose money 9 out of 10 times when they go to sell it. They may invest at the high end – but for investment purposes only. Finally, we are already seeing issues today in the motorcycle industry. The number of younger drivers is significantly less than in previous generations. Millennials realize that driving on a two wheel vehicle going 70 miles an hour with the only thing between you and the road is your body with a helmet on your head.

    Enjoy the Classic Car industry while you can, it is going the way of NASCAR….

    • Best comment I have seen on this subject. Sad for me as a GenX Mercedes Pagoda owner, but unfortunately, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, my friend.

    • You’re kidding right? Many millennials still love classic vehicles, motorcycles, and the sound and feel of gas engines and that’s not going to change for them. The majority of older people aren’t vehicle collectors and neither are most millennials but there’s always going to be people who love classic vehicles just as there’s people who still love steam engines and horses. Eventually though all classic vehicles will end up parked and the ones that aren’t will have their engines swapped for electric because some people just like the look of older vehicles and don’t care about keeping them as original as possible. The classic car market is not going anywhere, and neither is any automotive sport. If anything though videogames has guaranteed some vehicles in the future will forever be desirable since plenty of millennials played racing games or other games with cars and dreamed of owning what they drove in the game. I was born in 1986 and currently own two vehicles from the 1960s, a Willie’s truck and a Cutlass Oldsmobile and I fully intend to restore those. I don’t know how but there’s videos and instructions online that I can look up at any time and I’ll find or figure out how to make parts if I must, I plan to reuse as many original parts as I can. Seals and rubber parts will be another issue of course, it’s hard to keep something
      running that leaks and loses all it’s fluids. I even work on my own truck though, it’s cheaper to fix something that’s paid for than to buy another vehicle, even if the engine goes it’s cheaper in the long run to just replace the engine. Apparently you can’t get Tesla engines and batteries easily. Other auto makers will build an electric vehicle the owner can fix though if they want and even sell the parts to them since it’s profitable for auto makers to encourage people who like to mod and customize their vehicles and whether you’re buying parts or buying a new vehicle the smart auto makers will provide so they can get your money. The classic car industry will be around for generations to come, especially as long as there’s gamers with dreams of driving what is in their game and some expendable income. Who doesn’t dream of driving a classic Lamborghini, Porch, or some awesome muscle car they saw as a kid on TV or used in a videogames.

      • I fully agree with you here! This guy’s outlook is sooo gloomy… it makes me wonder if he’s being real. I’m 31 years old. I own 3 vehicles from the 70’s, a Buick 1972 GS Convertible Skylark, a Buick 1973 Apollo and a 1978 Chevy C10 Scottsdale. My first car was a 1964 Chevelle. My next classic car was a 1972 VW Super Beetle. I learned to drive a stick in my dads CJ5. I learned to drive a big truck in a 1968 International. I feel like the stigma that because we “millennials” grew up with electronic devices means we don’t have an attention span for classic things is absurd. That being said, when I take my cars to the shows, the old timers are always blown away by my presence. As if its astonishing for a 20/30 something to not only show an interest, but to immerse myself in the hobby. My Skylark is what most would consider a pro touring build, the Apollo is just a stylish cruiser but both have 455’s and my C10 is honestly a pile of rust…. but its a driver and its got the original 270 and 3 on the tree. While I fully understand that a lot of my generation isn’t interested…. that is not the case where I’m from. The reality is more that folks my age don’t think they can afford a muscle/classic car.

  3. If a 4 year old sees my 68 Cougar next to a 2018 Mustang, he or she is going to almost certainly going to get excited about the Cougar. They just know classic styling and characteristics even if they know absolutely nothing else about cars. Classics are not classics because of the era in which they were developed or chiefly employed, but because of what they are.

  4. The Baby Boomers will just hand me down Hot Rods to family when their done, most of them do not even know how to drive them. Us true car lovers will be gone with the great memories, sorry.

  5. Thing with electric . They may not be affordable to run as electricity coat will be sky high due to the extra demand in cars . This will effect everything . We don’t even produce enough nor will we with out causing untold damage to the planet. The demand will simple keep on rising. Who will pay over the top for electricity for a car when the need it in the home and manufacturing will see costs rise. Electric cars is really a pipe dream . Or simply to con people in to paying high costs. The US have long roads .how meny charges will you need to go coast to coast or just to the next state. Theres a long way to go before you will get a long range electric car. Hybrid seems the only real solution right now. Unless you can get a zero point energy engine. Better to perfect that then come up with better battaries and it may prove the fastest way. Electrics can and will break down. To fix them will cost way too much. Theres no need for the over rated high costs of making cars .there way over priced for what you get. There lose as people just won’t pay it eny more.

    • Wrong. Old thinking, Tesla model 3 is already a best seller with 400k on a waiting list. If you can’t see that electric will take over and very quickly, you are not paying attention. There is talk of some states banning ICE vehicles by 2030. How does that effect to classic car market of today.?

      • I am in 100% agreement with that annalists of the future of the blue collar collector car market. Now I ask a question,will the vast numbers of restored Chevrolet’s cause this marque to suffer a more pronounced decline in value over less common marques?

    • Very good point sir! We are still burning fossil fuel to charge batteries. Driving in the middle of nowhere, a hybrid ‘may’ suffice if the range is good enough. Elec vehicles will never dominate the vehicle market until an ‘alternative’ ZPE is revealed, and that ain’t going to happen in overnight.

  6. How often does anyone drive coast-to-coast? Most trips are for commuting to work or school. Electric cars are likely the wave of the future for environmental reasons and electricity is unlike to become more expensive as the grid transitions to renewable solar and wind power and away from fossil fuels. Possibly there will even be a future for nuclear power.

  7. The reason Millennials or gen x or what ever you wanna call them have no memories and are not interested in classic muscle or hot rods is because of state and local government or maybe even the feds. I don’t know why it changed or who was behind it or why ? it was part of American culture since the birth of the automobile. When Millennials or gen x started reaching driving age most towns and cities had already began the crack down on cruising or dragging main. That’s what we used to call it in our town ! Suddenly it became illegal to hang out in parking lots or drive up and down the boulevard in most towns and cites across America . That’s the reason you wanted that cool car so you could show it off every Friday and Saturday night ! Picking up girls , maybe get in a drag race on the out skirts of town or end up out at the lake putting down a few cold beers with your buddies or that girl you picked up for the night ! That’s what made it all worth while for most of us . That’s why we have that special car in the garage ! That’s what made the memories ! It was important to have a cool car back then ! You were somebody if you had a bad ass car ! Kids these days have all been cheated out of that . They can’t even go out and have fun without the fear of getting into some kind of legal trouble and ruining there lives just because their trying to have a little fun on Friday and saturday night . That’s why they all started staying home and playing on their video games and now phones . In our day the law knew we were just kids trying to have a little fun ! If we got a little carried away and pulled over they would always just let you go with a warning maybe make you pour your beer out and tell you to go home and better not catch you out for the rest of the evening ! Now they haul these poor kids to jail file serious charges and ruin their lives . This is the soul reason cool cars mean nothing to future generations. In todays world there’s no reason to have one . You can’t do anything with it except go to some fake cruise night that some towns have once or twice a year with a bunch of old men trying to relive their memories of how it once really was ! All I can say is thank God I grew up in a time when it was ok to have more fun than your supposed too !

  8. Enthusiast cars will be something unexpected; electric conversions of 49 Studebaker Commanders (the 4 DOOR model) and 59 Nash Metropolitans, VW Busses on EV chassis. Gas engines will become increasingly unpopular, especially muscle car type engines.

    We have already witnessed the end of ICE engines.

    • I wouldn’t say gasoline engines will become increasingly unpopular, it’s more like they will become more and more expensive to run due to artificially inflated gas prices and the cost if electric vehicles dropping as charging stations get built all over the world. Of course you can also have some governments that take a totalitarian approach and ban gasoline vehicles forcing them all off the road in the future but that will take environmental Nazis in the right positions.

      • First they phase out stick shifts,then they phase all-electric, then self-driving// Get off your Harley , get on your hoover vacuum suck-o-matic. The future of muscle cars aint lookin good. And say goodby to privacy of movement Big brother wants to peep in like a pervo control freak. They want everyone sitting in a little transporter pods lookin at their cell phone like autonotron morons with the 40 year old virgin dumb smile on their face

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