Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Denial in Detroit

As I have mentioned before in this space, I am a charter member of the automobile generation. For men my age, cars have always been a big part of our lifestyle, and a big consumer of our paycheques.

For gearheads, cars are more than conveyances. They are cultural icons, expressions of personal taste, status symbols, and just plain fun. We have vivid memories of the looks and sounds of the swoopy beauties with big V-8 engines that we coveted back in the fifties and sixties.

But I began to notice a change in the late eighties. I was managing a high tech services company, populated by young male technicians who, in earlier times, would have been signing up for loans to buy exciting rides. But most of these guys had little interest in cars, opting for 4-door Japanese econoboxes and old American beaters.

The staging area for the company car rally looked like a supermarket parking lot. If memory serves, I had the only sports car.

Apparently, that trend has accelerated with the iPhone generation, who are overwhelmingly urban and whose mobility is via the Internet rather than highways.  Many people do not own or lease a car, even if they can afford it. Renting a small vehicle for a few hours from a car sharing outfit is now popular with occasional users in big cities.

According to my morning newspaper, research by the University of Michigan reveals that 27% of young people are not even bothering to obtain a driving license. They find public transit, cycling, and cadging rides from friends to be sufficient for their transportation needs. High car prices and maintenance costs were also mentioned.

Is the auto industry worried? Not a bit.

"As the economy recovers and jobs improve, younger people will be in the market buying cars," opined General Motors' chief economist.

We'll see.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, car culture is not what it used to be. Personally I have never given any money to Detroit. All mine has gone to Japan. I just bought a new Toyota Yaris and sent them more moolah. But hey, it's like a sports car to ME!