Study: Generation Y Drivers Still Want Cars

Despite countless suggestions otherwise, a new report from the Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study reveals that Americans in Generation Y — a group of about 80 million people born between 1977 and 1994 — still want to own personal cars. According to Deloitte, only 29 percent of Gen Y respondents would consider giving up their own car.

The report contradicts earlier studies that young drivers had lost their passion for automobiles and driving. Last August, a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that 37 percent of respondents aged 18 to 37 said they were “too busy” to get a driver’s license, and that 22 percent of respondents said they never planned to get a license at all.

Deloitte’s data, by contrast, seems to suggest that members of Gen Y still lust after automobiles. “Well over half of Gen Y consumers… expect to buy or lease a car within the next three years,” Deloitte LLP vice chairman Craig Giffi said in a statement. “A mere 8 percent do not expect to ever purchase or lease a vehicle.”

At the same time, the Deloitte study found that there are critical obstacles between Gen Y buyers and cars. Eighty percent of respondents who don’t currently own or lease a car say the cost of one is too high; 67 percent said they can get around adequately by walking or taking public transport.

The cost barrier was reflected in a report last year from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute. The HLDI found in October that increased teen unemployment meant obtaining a driver’s license or buying a car was too expensive for younger drivers.

As for drivers who do want cars, Deloitte’s survey found that Gen Y respondents value having lots of technology in their vehicles. Fifty-nine percent expect to be driving a hybrid car within the next five years, and 58 percent would like the government to incentivize customers to buy more energy-efficient cars.

Safety technology is also important, with 72 percent of survey respondents saying they want their next car to offer technology that “recognizes the presence of other vehicles on the road.” Perhaps that’s so the Gen Y drivers can zone out online: Fifty-six percent told Deloitte they would like “technology that entertains them” in cars, as well as an easy ability to sync a smartphone and its apps with the car.

In fact, those desires push out some more traditional automotive factors. “Gen Y may not necessarily scrutinize horsepower, acceleration times, or engine size,” said Deloitte’s Massa Hasegawa.

Overall, Deloitte’s data provide a more hopeful outlook for the automotive industry, suggesting that young people haven’t totally lost any ambitions to own a car in the future.