Kids these days. They don’t get married. They don’t buy homes. And, much to the dismay of the world’s auto makers, they apparently don’t feel a deep and abiding urge to own a car.
This week, the New York Times pulled back the curtain on General Motors’ recent, slightly bewildered efforts to connect with the Millennials — that giant generational cohort born in the 1980s and 1990s whose growing consumer power is reshaping the way corporate America markets its wares. Unfortunately for car companies, today’s teens and twenty-somethings don’t seem all that interested in buying a set of wheels. They’re not even particularly keen on driving.
The Times notes that less than half of potential drivers age 19 or younger had a license in 2008, down from nearly two-thirds in 1998. The fraction of 20-to-24-year-olds with a license has also dropped. And according to CNW research, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 buy just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, a far cry from the peak of 38 percent in 1985.
At a major conference last year, Toyota USA President Jim Lentz offered up a fairly doleful summary of the industry’s challenge. ”We have to face the growing reality that today young people don’t seem to be as interested in cars as previous generations,” Lentz said. “Many young people care more about buying the latest smart phone or gaming console than getting their driver’s license.” […]
If the Millennials truly become the peripatetic generation, walking to the office, the bus stop, or the corner store, it could mean a longterm dent in car sales. It’s doubly problematic if they choose to raise children in the city. Growing up in the ‘burbs was part of the reason driving was so central to Baby Boomers’ lives. Car keys meant freedom. To city dwellers, they mean struggling to find an empty parking spot. “
Jordan Weissmann for The Atlantic (via)