We aren’t sure if this is good news or bad news, but a recent study reports that nearly a third of Americans as old as nineteen still haven’t gotten around to getting their driver’s license. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI’s Michael Sivak reports that their findings conclude that thirty years ago only one out of eight teens skipped getting their driver’s license as soon as they possibly could. In 1983 92% of 20 to 24 year olds had their license and by 2010, only 81% of them had their license.
While parents don’t seem to mind too much, the auto industry is definitely concerned. Not that teens make up a big buying segment, but this is the largest generation, larger even than the baby boomer generation and the carmakers along with every other industry is setting their sights on better sales since Gen X didn’t produce such a high number of consumers.
Toyota’s top United States executive states, “They seem lukewarm, at best,” talking about young drivers wanting to buy cars. When baby boomers got into their prime buying years it was like pouring pots of gold over the auto industry because they were buying up vehicles left and right. It doesn’t look as if this is going to happen with Generation Y.
There are a lot of reasons for this disturbing decline. Some people are blaming it on the economy, higher student debt, lower paying jobs, unemployment. Others are blaming gas prices. Who wants a car when it’s too expensive to drive it anywhere? Others blame the internet. “Virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact,” suggests UMTRI’s Sivak. “We found that the percentage of young drivers was inversely related to the availability of the Internet.” Whatever reason, for the automotive industry’s sake, we hope kids will start picking up their keys again. We just hope they put down their cell phones to do it.