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Maybe Gen Y Doesn't Want Cars at All

The numbers are pretty striking: Young people care less about having a car, and even having a driver's license, than they used to.

It looks like my fellow youngish people aren't very interested in cars:

The percentage of new cars sold to 21- to 34-year-olds hit a high of nearly 38 percent in 1985 but stands at around 27 percent today, according to CNW research. Over that same period, the percentage of new car buyers who are 55 or older has generally been trending up, according to the vehicle research group.

The prognosis isn't necessarily encouraging, either. In 2008, 82 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds had their driver’s license, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Although that’s gone up a tiny bit in the past few years, it’s down from more than 87 percent in 1994.

People in their late twenties and early thirties are also slightly less likely to have a driver’s license than in 1994, and it appears that more people are at least delaying getting their license. Just 31 percent of 16-year-olds had their license in 2008, down from about 42 percent in 1994, according to government data.


Obviously, this trend can be attributed, to a certain extent, to the economy. But if Generation Y grows up acclimated to life without a car, they may just decide they don't ever need one—especially as services like Zipcar become more common.

This has important implications for America's energy future. If overall car sales drop substantially—and at the same time electric cars start to make up a larger and larger percentage of those sales—we may be able to shift off of coal-powered oil-powered transportation more quickly than people expect.

Plummeting car sales might not be great for the car companies though.

Photo (cc) from Flickr user Daquella manera

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