Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Millennials Driving Less and Enjoying It More

I've mentioned before that the "younger generation" seems to be developing a different relationship to driving and car ownership than when I was growing up.  

Who better to find out more than Zipcar, which last fall commissioned a survey of 18-34 year olds (one of their sweet spots) and released a short Powerpoint on the results.

The survey of 1025 adults, including 287 Millenials found that:
  • 54% reported they "sometimes choose to spend time with friends online instead of driving"
  • 45% "consciously made an effort to reduce how much I drive"
  • 67% said "If there were more options in my area, such as public transportation, carsharing or convenient carpooling, I would drive less than I do now"
  • 80% "somewhat" or "strongly agreed" that the high cost of car ownership is making it difficult to own a car
The survey reminded us that Millenials have been hit hard by the recession (although they didn't distinguish how hard hip, urban professionals were affected) and that as a group they were already in debt from school.

The survey was picked up by a couple a couple of writers, the best being by free-lancer Jim Montavalli, who wrote a very nice column Why Facebook is better than driving and recycled it several places.  Montavalli was skeptical that this is actually good for Zipcar and, even after talking to Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith seems to not understand that the less you drive (your own car) the more attractive borrowing a carsharing vehicle becomes.

Of course, Millenials, also called Gen Y, are a hot topic in the automotive and probably just about every other industry. had a good overview of the research - "What's Not in a Millenial's shopping cart - a car".   BrandChannel writer Sheila Shayan interviewed Ford Motor Company's Sheryl Connelly, manager global trends and futuring,
  • "I don't think the car symbolizes freedom to Gen Y to the extent it did baby boomers, or to a lesser extent, Gen X-ers. [Digital technology] allows teens to transcend time and place so they can feel connected to their friends virtually… we also understand the context in which they use cars has changed. ... It has nothing to do with performance or getting you from point A to point B. It's just a change in what people expect to be delivered." 
Of course, for the time being, this is perhaps primarily a delay in purchase, not an overall reduction.  But I certainly expect the overall number of cars in the US will continue to decline.