Study: Young Owners Still Very Passionate About Cars, Driving

Contrary to popular thinking that suggests all young people have given up on the automotive market in favor of public transportation and bicycling, a recent study from J.D. Power tells a slightly different story. Not only have new owners 25 and younger represented a growing percentage of retail automotive sales since 2009, but these owners actually feel more excited about and connected to their vehicles compared to industry averages.

The 2014 U.S. Automotive Media and Marketing Report analyzes data from nearly 33,000 drivers who leased or purchased new vehicles between May 2012 and April 2013. Findings from the annual J.D. Power report show that new owners aged 25 years and below have a strong sense of identity and pride associated with their vehicles.

"There is a lot of discussion today about many young consumers not having the resources, interest or even passion to own a new vehicle," Arianne Walker, J.D. Power’s senior director of automotive media and marketing said in a statement. "However, this age group really is passionate about vehicle ownership, their driving experience and the image associated with the vehicle they buy. Not only do they enjoy driving, but they also see their vehicle as a reflection of their identity. They want to personalize their vehicle with options and features, and tend to view it as an extension of their personality."

Thirty-three percent of new owners in this age group want their vehicles to “stand out from the crowd,” while 27 percent want to “equip their vehicle with options and features to personalize it.” By comparison, 20 percent of all new-vehicle drivers responded the same way. This is perhaps due in part to a feeling of identity associated with new vehicles, as 19 percent of new owners aged 25 and younger agreed “that others can tell a lot about them by their vehicle,” compared to nearly half as many from all age groups (10 percent).

This comes as no surprise in light of a previous report, which indicated that over half of Gen Y consumers — 56 percent — valued entertainment and connectivity technology in their cars. The J.D. Power report does however suggest that young buyers 25 years old and below are still interested in responsive handling and powerful acceleration: 41 percent voiced a preference for these vehicle traits, versus 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively, among all new-vehicle owners.

While the research may indicate that young owners are pleased with their purchases, the fact remains that many consumers in this age group are simply unable to afford the high cost of ownership. J.D. Power reports that these younger vehicle buyers had an average finance term totaling about 3 months longer than the industry average, which is a common way to lower monthly payments over the course of ownership. While there seems to at least be the will to go out and buy a new car, the means to do so remains one of the biggest obstacles for younger consumers.

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