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This week I want to share with you something by my UK colleague, Charles Kirk. Charles provides some thoughts on the concern many automakers have on young people not buying cars. See what you think.


I was reading the British car magazine, Autocar, a little while ago (the world’s oldest car magazine, no less) and came across an article about young car buyers and how they had evidently ‘fallen out of love’ with driving.

All sorts of data were cited about how those in their 20s and 30s were less likely to say that they wanted a car or to hold a driving licence, preferring instead to shop and socialise online.

One statement really stood out:

Looking at 15 countries, a study found that there is a statistically significant correlation between the rise of the internet and the decline in the number of young drivers.

It was the words ‘statistically significant correlation’ that rang alarm bells, with the phrase ‘to what extent does correlation imply causation’ popping into my head.

Now, I’m sure that online services and social media have affected how people interact. However, I’d question its relative impact on cars and driving among younger people. I say this, because I’d bet that other factors – the cost of buying, running and, in particular, insuring vehicles – have had far more influence.

For example, the UK automotive services organisation, the RAC, says in its 2013 ‘state of the motoring nation’ report that over three quarters of those aged 17 – 24 would have fuller social lives if fuel were more affordable – understandable, given that petrol costs around £6 ($9) a gallon in the UK.

No wonder younger people are increasingly interacting online more – it’s too expensive for many to do anything else.

Does all this matter? Well, I think it does, from several points of view.

Manufacturers will want to attract and keep younger customers, and many recognise this challenge and have initiatives in place to encourage this – driving courses, insurance deals and technology that monitors or limits cars’ performance, as well as cheaper servicing and parts for older cars which younger people are more likely to own, etc.

Secondly, driving / having access to a car is a ‘talisman of maturity’ as one commentator recently put it. That makes sense to me, and I don’t think personal transport / freedom is going out of fashion anytime soon.

My final conclusion actually relates to the Autocar article itself – that you have to be careful how you interpret even the most seemingly straightforward data – especially if the conclusions you reach seem to go against what you’d expect.

Attracting younger customers to buy cars is becoming more of an issue. This is especially true in countries like Germany where 1 in 6 jobs are dependent on the automotive industry. There’s a lot at stake and it’s something manufacturers need to come to grips with.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Travell
Chris Travell is VP, Strategic Consulting for the Automotive Group of Maritz Research. He is responsible for working with Maritz' Insight Teams to further the understanding and application of the firm's automotive research. He has appeared on numerous television programs and is often quoted in Automotive News, Time, USA Today, Edmunds, Detroit Free Press, The Globe and Mail and various other publications in regard to issues related to the North American automotive industry. He is the principal contributor to The Ride Blog, Maritz Research's automotive blog.


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