Generation Y: No More Cars?
Ah, road trips, the freedom of owning one’s own car, taking that awful first drivers license picture, are these ideals going out of style? For the generation called the “Millennial” (AKA Generation Y) born between 1981 and 2000, owning a car or even having a drivers license is less important than it was to their parents’ generation.
In a down economy, this group has been hit hard by unemployment and underemployment, and some think this is the reason why the Millennials aren’t buying many cars, especially in urban areas. The economy does play a bit of a role in this. Gas prices are high, and owning a car is expensive. But the generational gap goes beyond just the economic impact of car ownership.
There are several factors that support the idea that this group isn’t much interested in driving or in owning cars. The number of young people getting their drivers licenses is decreasing. In 1994, 42% of 16 year olds had their drivers license, in 2008 it dropped to 31%.
For earlier generations, cars were an important form of self-expression through choice of model, color, and even bumper stickers. With the rise of social media and the internet, Millennial can describe who they are, what they are doing, how they are feeling and what they are thinking at any particular moment and broadcast that to the world. The technology making it easier for them to express themselves now is not a car, but a smart phone.
In the Twin Cities, there many transportation options including bus routes, light rail, Nice Ride bike stations situated around town, and if one really needs it, an HOURCAR. The message from HOURCAR is simple, and appeals directly to the Millenials’ cares and concerns. “Car ownership is so yesterday. With HOURCAR you can reserve a car when you need it, drive it where you want to go, let someone else worry about car payments, parking, insurance, gas, and maintenance, and be an environmental superstar. At the same time!”
Outside of the core cities, rural and suburban Minnesota is a tough place to survive without a car. However, Millennials, according to a Wall Street Journal story, have little interest in those environments. Whereas the baby boomer generation continued the trend of escaping the city to have a large house with a big yard in the suburbs, 88% of their children in one surveyed group said that they would prefer to live in an urban setting with amenities within walking distance.
Time will tell whether these preferences hold true as Millennial marry, settle down, and have children. If they do, there will be profound consequences for automobile manufacturers, home builders, and urban planners.