Among the young, the drive to drive is plummeting
Almost one-third of 19-year-olds in the U.S. have yet to get their driver’s licenses, a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported. Instead, young people are substituting email and text messaging for the traditional forms of socializing that would have required them to get a set of wheels to stay in contact with friends and family.
The trend is by no means limited to the United States. In fact, researchers first started raising the alarm in Japan where a growing number of young people have decided it’s easier to use mass transit – even crowded trains in cities like Tokyo – than sit stuck in constant traffic jams. In the high-tech mecca, Japanese young people were among the first to shift to texting as a substitute for face-to-face socializing, experts suggest.
The immediate impact for the auto industry remains a big question. Relatively few 19-year-olds buy new cars unless their parents offer one as a graduation present. But historical research shows that the passions consumers develop as teens have a big impact on what – or if – they buy later.
While most Americans eventually need to get a car because of the lack of mass transit, this general disinterest could mean that as they mature today’s teens will be less interested in buying a new vehicle – or may be content with basic econoboxes rather than something more expensive and well-equipped, industry experts fear.