Study: Youngest generation wants to drive, own cars

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

A study by Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader found that the youngest future car buyers — those through age 17 — still value car ownership.

The companies surveyed more than 1,200 members of generation Z and found they are not as materialistic as the millennials who came before them, but 92 percent own or plan to own a vehicle, and 97 percent have or plan to get a license. That stands in contrast to some beliefs that younger buyers will shun car ownership in favor of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft or other forms of transportation.

“Gen Z accounts for nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the population right now, and by 2020 this group will translate to $3.2 trillion in purchasing power, which is larger than the GDP of some small countries,” Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence for Cox Automotive, Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book’s parent company, said in a statement. “While they will have access to some serious cash, they will be cautious in how they spend their money, a trait that makes Gen Z markedly different than their millennial counterparts.”

Members of generation Z value brands like Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Jeep and Toyota, Helms said, because they’re “tried and true.” Those surveyed associate brands like Ford and Chevy with words like “trusted,” “practical” and “traditional.”

Helms noted that their tastes and beliefs could change, but their practicality and maturity will likely hold up.

Highlights of the study include:

■Car ownership is so important to members of generation Z, that 72 percent of responders would be willing to give up social media for a year to own a new car. About 63 percent said they’d give up new clothes, and 33 percent said they’d shun their cellphones for 365 days.

■Price is more important to generation Z than saving the planet. When asked their opinion on environmentally friendly cars and important factors in selecting a vehicle to buy or lease, 43 percent said these models mainly save money on gas, versus 30 percent who say those vehicles prevent global warming.

■Generation Z isn’t as materialistic as their millennial counterparts. Importance of style rated at 49 percent for gen Z versus 57 percent for millennials. Importance of brand rated at 23 percent for gen Z versus 34 percent for millennials.

■Despite growing up with technology, 65 percent of gen Z say “lack of trust in the technology to work” is a barrier, while 41 percent cite concerns that the autonomous cars will not drive as well as people. Roughly 54 percent found autonomous vehicles appealing, while 47 percent want most cars to drive themselves in the next 10 years.