August 23, 2014

Addressing the Generation Gap in the Classic Car Industry

"Son on a '69": photo credit: Carrie Anciaux Photography

The following is a link to a Monterey Experts Panel sponsored by Hagerty.

The link will take you to Hemming's Motor News blog and has generated a significant amount of commentary. I am in the minority group of those that commented.
I am an approx 30 yr old female in the classic car industry. Keep that in mind as you read this blog today. I may have a unique perspective being both young and less likely to enjoy cars due to my gender, but for this discussion opinions are less important than idea's.

As long as we can foster their participation in the collector car world on their terms, the DNA of the industry, nay, way of life will never be threatened. - See more at:
I will admit, I did not watch every moment of this panel. It's 120 minutes long, way too lengthy for my attention span in one sitting. I did however watch most of it (the last 10 minutes are the most valuable) and I read the majority of comments. The entire discussion seemed one sided, and focused on airing opinions and pointing out problems. In summary, most feel that "collector car's are too expensive for anyone under 50 to afford", "young people just don't respect the true classics anymore",  and "kids are too enthralled in their phones and twitter feeds to care about vehicles at all".

For every obstacle that is presented, a solution should be proposed. Otherwise you're whining. But that's just my opinion. The number of solutions presented for engaging young people in the industry was severely limited both on the video and the comments. The lack of ideas alone may be a significant part of the problem. The classic car industry seems to think it knows what up and coming generations are interested in. They  have decided it's not the classic car's without even asking for their opinion. Hint: Complaining that your cars value will drop as a result of disinterested youth will not make them excited about antique cars. Also, calling them "antiques" is part of the problem. "Vintage" is much more trendy with the group you hope to entice.

Hemmings, seeking a "new perspective" on the collector car industry had their selected 3 "senior" panelists and 3 "Gen xer's" at the center of the discussion. They placed "sippy cups" to identify who their gen xer's were sitting at the table. Oddly enough, the ones with the sippy cups had the most solutions for moving the industry forward and generating interest. They are the following:
  1. Dan Stoner, publisher of the Auto Culture and director of new marketing for Hemmings
  2. Ezekiel Wheeler, transportation design student and freelance writer(about cars)
  3. Rory Carroll, editor of Auto Week
While the panel is no doubt well qualified to discuss vintage cars, I have to ask:  if you are seeking input on how to engage young people in car culture, would you rather talk to those who are entrenched within it or those who you are hoping to engage? After all, when a company is developing a new product or service, they will use focus groups of their target population to get an idea for how they feel about the items for sale. While this isn't a "product" per se the basic principle still applies. Find the target segment, and ask them.

Why isn't that happening? Two distinctly opposite segments of the population, each with  differing mindsets, seem to need a mediator in order to have a conversation about car's. This sounds a lot like the boomer generation arguing with their parents about music in the 60's or 70's (or so I'm told). It is believed that the other person's opinion is wrong, without actually listening to their argument. Both sides are equally guilty.

When was the last time you saw a classic car company of any kind, create an engaging display at a non-automotive event? How about one targeted at Generation X or Y? It may be a regional thing, but I don't believe I have ever encountered one while living in WI, other than in a parade. There is a reason that firefighters go to schools to educate young children about fire safety. It's because the kids will likely (and hopefully) never need to have the firefighters come to them. Classic car industry leaders take note. Where does your target market spend the most time? Now go there. Meet them and ask questions. You'll have your answers.

The key is to expose today's children, teens and young adults to this industry in any form at a young age. This should be done in a way that gets them excited about the automobile itself. Then they will take it in a direction that makes sense for who they are as individuals. Hot Wheels, models, Lego's, customizing a "beater", audio systems, etc.(see how we engage our 6 year old son in car culture).  They may not be able to buy collector cars today. That is not the point. They will grow up, and with age, their interests, income and ideas will mature. Did you always love the same music, food or movies? How about car's?
As long as we can foster their participation in the collector car world on their terms, the DNA of the industry, nay, way of life will never be threatened. - See more at:

A couple days after the video was posted,  A follow-up blog by Dan Stoner generated continuing discussion. I read it in it's entirety.  When reading the comments, I felt like I was on the other side of a one-way mirror. Un-engaged in the conversation, but able to watch everyone else talk about what I should think, say, like and do with or about cars.  Based on the majority of comments, the location it was posted,  and the topic itself, I should not have seen any of this content. It was not targeted to me. It was about me.

So how did I hear about it? On Hemming's Facebook page. Why did I like their page, because I'm in the minority. A young, classic car industry enthusiast and business owner. How do we get more people to say the same for themselves?
Ask them.

~Molly Gursky
Comments and questions can be directed to
As long as we can foster their participation in the collector car world on their terms, the DNA of the industry, nay, way of life will never be threatened. - See more at:
As long as we can foster their participation in the collector car world on their terms, the DNA of the industry, nay, way of life will never be threatened. - See more at:
As long as we can foster their participation in the collector car world on their terms, the DNA of the industry, nay, way of life will never be threatened. - See more at:


  1. Molly--can't tell you how much I (we) appreciate your insights. I was on that panel and I think it's fair to say I was probably the only one actually hanging out with the crowd our entire industry knows it needs a piece of to keep the torch lit.

    And thanks for posting a link to the blog post – that was a piece I wrote for the Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance that takes place just south of San Francisco, CA. And an interesting note on that: Hillsborough is the last remaining concours event, of six or seven that existed three years ago, in Northern California. That says something about the relevance of those types of car shows, anymore. Which is exactly why I wrote that piece: it speaks directly to the Boomer crowd that populates that show and lives in its own bubble of car culture (which, to some degree, we're all guilty of).

    So, when I said, "The Baby Boomer generation is largely populating the decision-making roles, the implementers are a section of Generation X-ers who are not considered early-adopters, and neither of them have a clue as to how to talk to the valuable youth market they all know they need to engage – a group, by the way, that isn’t even involved in the discussion," I was talking about the exact same problem you mention: in car culture, the Baby Boomer generation – currently at the top of the ladder – isn't listening. But should we expect them to? Historically, Boomers are not described by their willingness to take the focus off "me" in the interest of the greater good. So, I don't think it's our job to try to get them to listen to the issues facing the 'graying of the hobby,' as we so politely refer to it.

    I think it's our job, as members of the Youth Mode demographic, to teach the collector car industry how to engage the very groups that will become its lifeblood. As a member of the media, it's my job to make sure that we – as the venerable, trusted, grand ol' Hemmings brand – begin to engage the members of Youth Mode where they already are and where they're already spending their money, instead of what you saw great examples of: expecting them to come to us.

    Why would the Boomer generation expect vibrant, active, upwardly mobile young souls to spend any time with them in the collector car world when they simultaneously drive inventory prices up and complain that the youngsters aren't interested in all their expensive stuff? And pile on top of that the habit of the Boomers to chastise this group for "spending all their time on their video games and phone gadgets and not knowing what real work is." Glorious. And we continue to scratch our heads.

    During that panel discussion, I watched a guy in the audience fold his arms and shake his head "no" when I mentioned that a '32 Ford body/doors/decklid/firewall up for sale for around $30K is just one of the reasons a "deuce" – an icon of American car culture – will be one of the cars to fall out of favor as this everyone ages. He clearly didn't believe me, but it doesn't really matter whether he does or not--it's already happening.

    As the rate of attrition in the economy of collector cars reduces the influence of the Baby Boomer generation, its media industry (of which I'm a member) has to prepare for either its own demise or a new conversation around all this great stuff. And at Hemmings, we're already at the table and talking. Please pass my email along to anyone who wants their voice heard and thanks again for your input!

    Dan Stoner

    1. Well put again Dan. I find we agree on several points. I do however feel that Hemming has an uphill battle based on what I saw in their comments generated on the posts. It's going to require more people like you (and me) to engage the appropriate target market in a productive way. I applaud your efforts and hope to see some unique media and marketing out of your "grand 'ol" employer as you so dubbed them. Sincerely, thank you for commenting and I am always willing to share my thoughts. Especially in this topic.

      -Molly Gursky


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