While teenagers are doing more than ever before (babysitting, working, studying to get into Princeton or Brown or Smith or Stanford, volunteering, playing sports, sending hundreds of texts a day, being mean to each other, and maintaining impeccable online profiles), they certainly aren’t driving as much as they used to.
It’s a decelerating trend that began with the advent of digitization. Check it:
- In 1983, 87% of 19 year-olds, 80% of 18 year-olds, and 69% of 17 year-olds had driver’s licenses.
- In 2008, those percentages dropped to 75%, 65% and 50%.
- In 2010? Even worse. Respective percentages were 70%, 61% and 46%.
That means only 6?!?!? out of 10 teenagers have driver’s licenses today. The only age groups that DIDN’T suffer a declining percentage of driver’s cards were people between 25 and 29, and those over 70.
This is of obvious concern to automobile companies, who’ve long relied on that good old American free spirit to kick in once kids reached driving age, leading to pleading and begging of parents for a car they could call their own. And then, once those kids got their own cars and eventually tired of it and wanted a reset, they’d be more prone to buying the same kind of car.
Presto, Ford or Chevy or Volkswagen or Yugo would have a long-term customer. Get those freedom tentacles in there early so the kids wouldn’t know any better about switching brands (like cereals, music your parents listened to, and your father’s favorite football team). Pretty basic psychology, really.
It’s a whole different marketplace out there these days, and firms will need to adapt to the changing culture.