Non driving youth to shape planning

Many young consumers today just do not care that much about cars.

As reported in the New York Times in March, General Motors needs help solving one of the most vexing problems facing the car industry: Many young consumers today just do not care that much about cars.

“That is a major shift from the days when the car stood at the center of youth culture and wheels served as the ultimate gateway to freedom and independence.”

A generation ago, “Young drivers proudly parked Impalas at a drive-in movie theater, lusted over cherry red Camaros as the ultimate sign of rebellion”.

Today Facebook, Twitter and text messaging allow teenagers and 20-somethings to connect without wheels. High gas prices and environmental concerns don’t help matters.

As reported: “They think of a car as a giant bummer,” and “Think about your dashboard. It’s filled with nothing but bad news.”

There is data to support these observations. The Times indicated in 2008, 46.3 per cent of potential drivers 19 years old and younger had drivers licences, compared with 64.4 per cent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers aged 21 to 30 drove 12 perc ent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.

Forty-six percent of drivers aged 18 to 24 said they would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to the quoted research firm.

Automobiles have fallen in the public estimation of younger people. In a survey of 3,000 consumers born from 1981 to 2000, a generation marketers called the Millennials, a marketing firm asked which of 31 brands they preferred. Not one car brand ranked in the top 10, lagging far behind companies like Google and Nike.

This has broad implications for urban planners and transportation decision makers as they need to accommodate the future generations that will embrace mass transit.

My generation that as teenagers embraced Camaros, Mustangs and Firebirds need to realize that our kids do not share our passions for wasting fuel and energy just to sit in traffic.

The New York Times article laments the automakers concerns to attract new drivers to replace the older drivers who will eventually disappear.

This is analogous to Kodak’s effort to push film as we entered the digital age.

Avi Ickovich




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