Every generation bitches about those kids today, but I think the ones we’ve got now deserve a bit of credit for smarts:
The share of new cars purchased by those aged 18-34 dropped 30% in the last five years, according to the car shopping web site Edmunds.com.
Some say the economy is mostly to blame — that the young aren’t buying because they’ve been particularly hard hit by the recession.
But others say the trend could be part of larger social shifts.
One reason is demographic: The re-urbanization of America is giving more people access to public transportation. The advent of Zipcar and other car-on-demand businesses is eliminating the need to own and insure an expensive vehicle that often isn’t driven much.
But mostly it’s the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be … This is particularly true for the youngest, most digitally-connected members of Generation Y. Forty-six percent of 18-24 year-olds would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to a recent Deloitte study.
This is a good thing.
Nobody should have to buy a car to be able to participate in American society. If someone wants to buy a car and drive it everywhere, well, that’s their decision. It’s not a choice I would make, but I have no problem if someone else chooses it for himself or herself.
But until the last few years, making the choice not to have a car has had profound effects on one’s ability to live a rewarding life, to the point where it wasn’t even really an option for the vast majority of Americans. With the re-urbanization of America, that’s changing. And it’s changing with the lifestyle choices these young people are making now.
The car industry, naturally, is afraid. They’re afraid that we might figure out that life can be better without a car.
[Michelle] Krebs [an analyst at Edmunds.com] said the drop in sales share by young people is misleading, as more of them are buying used cars or simply living at home longer and using their parents’ vehicles. When the economy improves, they will be back en masse.
“We don’t all live in urban areas and can get by without a car,” she said …
Young people may defer buying cars until the economy improves or they may live out their 20s in urban areas, but at some point they will have families, move to the suburbs and need vehicles, said Erich Merkle, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst.
With all due respect, these people are missing the point.
There’s a growing number of people who don’t want to move to the suburbs – and yes, many of them either already have kids or want them someday. The life goals of previous generations aren’t as ubiquitous as they once were, and the revitalization of our cities means that young people who find suburbia stultifying and deadening don’t have to squeeze themselves into an environment that doesn’t fit them. Our cities aren’t the desolate, decaying places they once were. Young people are going to keep getting older in cities, and as that happens, they’re going to keep trying to make them better places to live – for young and old, for parents and the childless, for pretty much everyone.
People like Krebs and Merkle are living in the past now. I don’t expect the suburbs to ever disappear, of course. But neither do I expect to see all – or even most – of today’s young city dwellers flocking out to gated subdivisions and golf course communities.
* Yes, I know that “alright” is incorrect. It looks ignorant to me, and I personally hate the fact that it seems to be replacing the correct “all right” as the de facto standard usage in this country. But that’s how The Who wrote it on the cover of their famous album of the same name, so after much anguish, I left it wrong.