New Study Offers More Proof That Gen Y Just Isn't That Into Cars

November 23, 2011
Texting in traffic (by Flickr user Mo Riza)

Texting in traffic (by Flickr user Mo Riza)

We've said it before, and now we can say it again: Generation Y doesn't care much for cars. The latest proof comes from research firm Gartner, in a new study to be released next month.

We first noticed the Millennial/motor vehicle mismatch in Japan, which should've given us an inkling of what was to come on this side of the Pacific. Japanese youth are at the forward edge of tech consumption, and it's their love of gadgetry that many analysts see underpinning their nonchalance about cars.

As young people in the U.S. have begun catching up with their Japanese counterparts, studies have shown a similar trend: Millennials in America are more interested in smartphones than a set of wheels. In fact, General Motors found that teens dislike driving because it eats up time that could be better spent texting.

Although the Gartner study isn't out yet, the first hints of its data confirm the other surveys' findings -- specifically, that younger consumers are obsessed with technology, to the detriment of auto sales. In fact, 46% of folks between 18 and 24 who participated in the survey said that they'd rather have access to the web than a car of their own. The number of Baby Boomers who had the same response: 15%.

The New York Times identifies this as part of a slow-moving paradigm shift, citing the statistic that 50% of 16-year-olds obtained driver's licenses in 1978, while only 30% did so in 2008. Part of the reason for that may be that young people have delayed getting their licenses because of stricter teen driving laws. However, Ford's Sheryl Connelly points to data like that uncovered by GM -- namely, that teens are more interested in socializing via text message and social networks than in person, and therefore, have less need for cars.

If there's an upside to this news for automakers, it's that the trend should affect young people around the globe in similar ways. Thanks to heavy mobile phone penetration (and the growing prevalence of smartphones), teens across the planet will likely experience the same sort of mind-shift regarding cars. For automakers, that means that no particular company or country will have much of an advantage when it comes to wooing young buyers.

The downside, of course, is that until autonomous vehicles become a reality, car companies are going to struggle to bring younger shoppers into showrooms.

If you're a part of Generation Y, we'd be interested to know your thoughts on the matter. And if anyone has a solution for automakers, now would be a great time to offer it. 

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