Does Love Really Make a Subaru a Subaru, Or Are Car Companies Desperate?

STORY BY Candace Bryan

Published: April 9, 2013

The other day I was watching TV, and of course, half of the show's thirty minute duration was allotted to commercials. Commercials often fascinate me. Every time I see a bad commercial, I'm baffled by how many people decided it was a good idea. Every time I see a good commercial, I think about how clear it is that that the product was marketed for people exactly like me. The other night, though, something incredible happened. A commercial made me weep. And no, it wasn't for a children's hospital or food for adorable puppies.

It was a Subaru commercial.

It's been hard to ignore car commercials this past year. They've become more and more frequent, and they've grown diverse. As a child, I remember noticing that all car commercials fit into one category: whatever car was being advertised would drive swiftly and smoothly on a mountain while dramatic music played and an enthusiastic man's voice explained the car's benefits. But lately the commercials have branched out. It's become apparent that car companies are trying to sell cars not merely to mountain enthusiasts, but also to young parents, twenty-somethings, and tech-geeks.

The commercial that made me cry was typical of these. It was a short tale of a little girl's first day of school. She was very nervous, as was her hipster-looking father. But after the bus picked her up, he used his handy Subaru to drive next to the bus, and was relieved to see she'd already made a friend. "Love: it's what makes a Subaru a Subaru." It was cheesy, but I got a little misty-eyed as the girl who had been so frightened suddenly looked so happy. I'm not even a parent but I empathized with the father deeply. But after I wiped a little tear of joy from my face, I started to wonder "Why are these car commercials pulling out all the stops? Why are they so desperate?"

Well it turns out, young people aren't buying cars.

In the last five years, the number of cars sold to 18-30 year-olds dropped 30%. Some blame the recession: young people can't get jobs, so young people can't afford cars. Others say that more and more young people are living their youth in large cities, where public transportation leaves car unnecessary. Another theory, though, has to do with social media.

According to CNN, car companies have noticed the lack of young buyers, and think social media is to blame. Before the internet, cars were a necessary tool to connect with friends, to socialize. But now, people use their phones and Facebook to interact. Owning a car is less essential to maintaining contact.

It's also less symbolic of status. The members of Generation Y who are schilling out cash for a vehicle aren't even buying sexy sports cars. They're opting for practical models.

It's seems obvious that car companies are using this information and these theories when making commercials. The tear-jerkers are trying to show that cars are a key component of parenthood. Slogans like "Love makes a Subaru a Subaru" are desperately attempting to equate car ownership with friendship and family. Other commercials depict ways that new cars are incorporating cutting-edge technologies into their products.

Will all these sly tactics work? Can young people be convinced that cars are better than social media? Car companies seem optimistic, but only time and the end of the recession will tell.

Other Stories by Candace Bryan
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