Carmakers go high-tech, green to lure millennial customers, Latest Business News - The New Paper

Carmakers go high-tech, green to lure millennial customers

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NEW YORK: US auto sales may be slowing, but carmakers have high hopes for luxury vehicles, which are imbued with increasingly sophisticated gadgetry and sex appeal to seduce a new generation of millionaires.

Luxury car companies brought their A game to the New York International Auto Show, which opened on Friday with a mix of new models, some featuring envelope-pushing technology and others pitched as green vehicles to grab the attention of new customers who grew up with technology and are sensitive to climate change.

In both cases, these are luxury models with price tags to match.

A new generation of Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicles with voice command answers to "Hey Mercedes" as its artificial intelligence programmes adapt to its user's habits.

That feature brings to life something like the experience from the 1980s hit television show Knight Rider when David Hasselhoff's character addressed his vehicle as Kitt.

"Voice recognition is absolutely something customers want," said Mr Dietmar Exler, the chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA.

"It is much more convenient. The cars can read your e-mails or texts and you don't need to take your hands from the steering wheel," he added.


"It's safer. You don't look down and try to find something, you can just say it and control it."

Although many millennials still face heavy college loans, the US economy is also churning out adults who make seven figures and up who were born in the 80s and 90s.

So far this month, there have been successful initial public offerings by tech companies Lyft, Pinterest and Zoom, all led by (now-rich) millennials.

And more youth-led ventures are expected to go public soon, including Uber.

Eyeing this rarified niche population, the Italian company Pininfarina stands out.

The company introduced its Battista electric zero-emission vehicle at an art gallery in Chelsea, the trendy Manhattan district.

The sleek vehicle has 1,900 horsepower and can sprint to 96kmh in less than two seconds.

The price?

US$2.27 million (S$3.1 million).

A future prospect in this ultra-expensive and ultra-environmentally friendly category is the Genesis Mint, which was shown as a concept car by Hyundai.

"The wealthy clients want just the best of the best," said Mr Brian Miller, a New York dealer for luxury brands, including Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Bugatti, whose latest offering is the ultra-powerful Chiron sports car. -REUTERS