Last week the auto parts giant Mobis affiliated to the Hyundai Group revealed a rear-seat display screen with an interactive city map. Who would be interested in buying that? Not the millennials.

This new group with ages between 18 and 34 has become an important focus for the car industry as a big part of these people called the millennials would rather hitch an Uber ride than purchase a vehicle. This is why the carmakers are now looking into what would attract the millennials into buying a car.

Joseph Steffey, an electronics engineer working at the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center close to Detroit, said that “You can’t give those consumers everything they want, because we have to appeal to other demographics, too. But we do need components that appeal to that young, more tech-savvy customer.”

In order to get new and out of the box ideas, the Japanese carmaker Toyota turned to the graduate students at the Clemson University to make a concept crossover with the young consumers in mind. Clemson managed to display the concept called uBox at the Society of Automotive Engineers Show. And even if Toyota is mostly not going to manufacture it, the concept draws a pucture of what the millennials are looking for in an affordable car.

Johnell Brooks, a Clemson associate professor who coordinated the project, said that “This is a generation of people who have expressed a desire for natural looks, for what’s real and not decorative.”

The uBox seats have flip-up desk surfaces and can turn into a workspace, 110-volt plugs inside and outside and carbon fiber interior trim pieces which were not painted. The exterior body can be replaced with 3D printing, allowing each owner to express themselves onto their cars.

The uBox is still not the answer to the car industry’s problem. The millennials are also interested in better infotainment controls. Ned Curic, chief technology officer at Toyota Motor North America, said that “They have good experiences with Siri, Google and Cortana, which is very different from the older [voice] technology we used to have in vehicles, which wasn’t all that good.”

A recent online study from an IHS Automotive showed that 4,000 young drivers would choose touch screens, voice recognition and steering wheel controls for their cars. What was missing from their preferences? The conventional door knobs. We’ll let you handle that one, car industry.


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