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Study: Our Parents Influence Car Decisions We Make

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Learning to Drive Lego Pascal Parents Influence Car Decisions

Just like your parents had a hand in teaching you to drive, they also have a hand in your car choices

It probably wouldn’t surprise you if someone told you that your parents influence car decisions you make. I don’t have to remind you of how much unsolicited “advice” you received from your mom and dad when you were shopping for your first four-wheeled ride.

While you may assume such memories are the only input you received when debating over that beat-up convertible, chances are you received a lot more direction growing up than you might realize. According to a new study co-released by Michigan State University, our parents influence car decisions we make even before we think about getting our drivers’ license.

Our Parents Influence Car Decisions Before We Know How to Drive

The study authored by Soren Anderson and Ryan Kellogg (University of Michigan), Ashley Langer (University of Arizona), and James Sallee (University of Chicago) offered an interesting statistic. After nationally surveying over 4,300 grown children and 2,600 of their parents in two-year increments from 1999 to 2011, they concluded the following:

Children are 39% more likely to purchase a particular car from a particular automotive brand if their parents bought that brand. 

It’s probably not a life-changing thought when you consider how brand-loyal many parents can be and how that familiarity can rub off on younger generations. Remember the age-old rivalry between truck brands that affects even the clothes some people wear?

Obviously, a lot of factors would compel a young adult to purchase the same brand as his/her parents: socio-economic status, similar residential regions, personal values, biases, and daily product-placement.

Learning to Drive Parents Influence Car Decisions Purchases Toy Alex Proimos

Making car decisions can be difficult– that’s why we depend on others’ input, like our parents’
Photo:Alex Proimos

So, the real impact of the study concerns what we do with the statistic.

“In theory,” says economist Soren Anderson, “these findings could change the way automakers price and market their cars.”

If automakers and car dealerships want to sell themselves as hip, sporty lines, they need to appeal to families who will actually purchase their products. Also, if manufacturers know that their brands are being promoted through generations as “trustworthy,” they might want to raise prices on this already-established potential customer base.

Essentially, the age-old practice of lowering prices on entry-level vehicles and raising prices on boring older options for families might not be wise. Just think about the current crisis Buick’s reputation is facing.

The results of this statistic won’t cause any immediate changes in the auto sales industry, but it may inspire some to reevaluate their approaches. We’ll see what happens when the study is made public in the Journal of Industrial Economics.

For now, thank your mom and dad for helping you find that car you love so much.