You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’? Why Teen Drivers Are Dwindling And What It Means

It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that we will be able to sell cars to a large and emerging demographic,” said Ford’s President of the Americas Mark Fields, during an industry conference earlier this year.

He serves as the chief judge at the world’s most prestigious classic car show, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. He’s a widely respected automotive journalist and author, and he has a garage full of hot rods and other cool cars. But when it comes to his two teen children, “They haven’t shown the slightest interest” in what’s in that garage, Ken Gross laments.

Teenage rebellion? Perhaps, as teens often seem determined to resist their parents in just about every way imaginable, but one thing parent and child once always seemed to agree on was the importance of driving a car. Not anymore.

According to a recent study, nearly a third of American 19-year-olds haven’t bothered to get their driver’s licenses yet. Three decades ago, it was just one in eight who skipped that right of passage, according to Michael Sivak, of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI. Among those 20 to 24, meanwhile, only 81 percent had gotten their licenses in 2010, down from 92 percent in 1983.

That may not necessarily be bad news for parents pacing the floor wondering where their kids are after curfew. But it’s potentially disastrous for the auto industry. No, Millennials don’t make up a large portion of the new car buying community – yet. But as a generation larger in number than the once sought-after Boomers, they were seen as the next big hope for carmakers after the downsized Gen-X.


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