Day #71: The Royal Bangs – “My Car is Haunted”
Yesterday on TV, Diane Sawyer gave some harrowing news: kids just aren’t into cars like their parents! In fact, roughly 60% of those who were surveyed said that given a choice, they’d take an internet connection over a car. What is wrong with this crazy generation?!
Car culture isn’t totally dead, but of course, gear heads probably aren’t lusting after the latest release from Nissan or Honda. But, as for the rest of the kids? It sounds like another industry red alert by those so entrenched in a business, they fail to understand/adapt to changing times and, consequently, changing markets. In other words, reasons that aren’t all that complicated, if you think about it. (Dare I say… it’s the economy, stupid?)
If you live in a big city, a car, whether new or used, is probably going to be more trouble than it’s worth. They cost money to own and to insure. If you live in a state that requires you to have the car inspected as a condition of registration, there’s more money down the drain. Gas is out of sight at $4 a gallon (as of this writing), and if space is at a premium in your city, so too will be the cost of parking. As much as you might hate other people, public transportation starts looking really good. Buses and subways. Even bike shares have become a common site. And if you find yourself in need of a car, Zip Cars and similar rental companies designed for urbanites have “wheels when you want them.”
Out in the suburbs, I thought it was pretty obvious that the economics had the same importance. With your college-educated “Boomerang Generation” (coined by PEW Research in their recent reports) moving back home to make ends meet, they are putting off buying homes. Even putting off marriage (although I’m skeptical that this is largely an economic choice). Perhaps new cars seem like just another out-of-reach (or, for the time being, unnecessary) expense. But, with public transportation not being as abundant (if it exists at all) in these areas, young residents there may be settling for used cars and the family hand-me-downs to get by.
And, if you think of what cars onced symbolized to previous generations – that blissful sense of freedom – it may have held the same for today’s youth when they were in high school. But when you get a little older, and start carrying certain financial responsibilities, car ownership again becomes just another nagging expense at a time when getting ahead seems impossible. Plus, while the news story featured archived footage of beautiful old Mustangs and Firebirds and vintage finned rides, I can’t really think of too many exciting counterparts. Honda Accords and Subaru Foresters don’t really turn heads, you know? And the cars that do… well, those are the pricy ones.
Of course, car companies, in the course of calling the marketing teams to task on ways to entice young buyers, seemed to have either missed all of this, or have simply chosen to ignore these factors, preferring instead to focus on curb appeal. You may have noticed the recent ads on the Facebook homepage (assuming you are ever logged out of Facebook to actually view them). Most recently, Ford announced that it has tapped Mtv for advice. Because, you know, it’s still a relevant taste-maker for young Americans.