Summer brings to mind visions of beaches, bikinis and above all, convertibles. It’s a time when newly minted college graduates and other young professionals ought to be bouncing into showrooms to buy their first automobiles.
That’s a potentially huge issue for the automobile industry, since Generation Y, some 80 million strong, is bigger than the post-World War II baby boom.
Automakers have known for a while that they were going to have a problem attracting these buyers. It was clear as far back as five years ago that many teens were not getting their driver’s licenses in high school. One reason was the restrictions by a number of states on teen drivers, from limiting the hours when they could be on the road, to requiring that they drive with their parents.
Speaking of parents, they’re also an influence keeping youngsters from getting behind the wheel. Some experts blame Helicopter Parents (sometimes known as Snowplow Parents) for waiting on their kids hand and foot, including driving them wherever they need to go, rather than risk having the kids get in an accident.
The economy is also a huge factor. Many young people face soaring tuition costs, and the money they’re earning in their part-time, summer and first jobs is going to pay for school and rent. Even if they can afford cars, insurance is expensive, and just getting a license can cost hundreds of dollars in driving instruction fees. Bicycles, skateboards and rollerblades are a far less expensive alternative to driving and walking is even cheaper, assuming you can get where you need to go by foot.
And, Millenials have had much more exposure than previous generations to environmental concerns. Many watched An Inconvenient Truth in high school and college classes (some more than once) and others grew up with recycling bins in the garage. Public transportation usage is way up in a number of cities across the country and around the world.
Alix Partners, the global consulting firm, has come up with a name for this group: Generation Neutral. If people were getting driver’s licenses at the same rate as in 2000, we’d have 5 million more people on the road, it says. And, if people were driving as much as they did a decade ago, there would be 420 billion more miles traveled.
Reuters says the federal government’s National Household Travel Survey shows that from 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by people ages 16-34 dropped 23 percent, from 10,300 to 7,900.
The whole issue of how to get Generation Y interested in driving is a perplexing one for the auto companies. It sparked a lively discussion last week at Jalopnik.com, where ideas ranged from getting kids out to an autocross event to plopping them down in front of Top Gear UK. That might entice some car enthusiasts, but Generation Neutral may need more proof of the need to drive in order to shift to cars.
This article was found on Forbes.Com at http://shar.es/tb2rj
Written by Micheline Maynard