Millennials Show Apathy Towards Cars

A version of this post was originally published on TheCityFix Brasil by Maria Fernanda Cavalcanti on March 26, 2012.

A recent article in The New York Times by journalist Amy Chozick adds to the surmounting evidence that the attitude of younger generations towards mobility is quickly changing. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 are turning out to be more caring and aware of others and their environment, leaving behind old values and consumer needs.

A few decades ago, the car represented the ideal of freedom for many generations. Today, with congested streets, respiratory diseases and lack of space for people in cities, young people realize that driving has nothing to do with being free, and they have started to place more value on public and sustainable transportation, like cycling, taking the bus and walking. The article explains that youth’s access to social media allows them to connect to one another without wheels, especially when high gas prices and environmental concerns already  discourage them from driving in the first place.

The New York Times article tells us that General Motors asked for help from MTV Scratch, the brand consultancy unit of the media company Viacom that builds relationships with its young consumers. The idea is to regain favor with young people by developing strategies specifically tailored to them. This is especially important to companies like GM because the 79 million millennials in the United States have an estimated purchasing power of $170 billion dollars per year, making them a highly attractive segment for brands to target, according to market research firm GM’s youth-tailored strategies are especially visible in the above commercial for Chevy—a GM car—and also in the music video for the band OK Go, below.

Despite the best efforts of car companies, millennials seem to have made up their minds on what is more important to them, especially when they’re stuck in a gloomy job market. “In a survey of 3,000 consumers born from 1981 to 2000 — a generation marketers call “millennial”— Scratch asked which of 31 brands they preferred. Not one car brand ranked in the top 10, lagging far behind companies like Google and Nike,” the article explains. Furthermore, 46 percent of drivers aged 18 to 24 stated that they prefer to access the Internet over owning a car, according to data from Gartner agency. (We recently wrote about this trend among millennials here.)

The impression is that the interests and concerns of young people have changed, and advertising agencies are scrambling to understand them. Only now, with the power of information at our fingertips, it is much more difficult to believe that our freedom depends on a metal box that takes more than it gives and pollutes our cities.

Young Brazilians Prefer Quality Public Transportation

These trends are not unique to the United States. Young people in Brazil are starting to display similar disinterest in cars. The research agency Box1824 surveyed thousands of millennials on their expectations for the future in a project called “The Brazilian Dream” and found that millennials show an enthusiasm and willingness to change, especially in the face of urban and social challenges.

The issue of public transportation comes up repeatedly in the comments on the website, which is an open virtual space for anyone who wants to contribute to change where they live. Many people see the car as a villain that pollutes and occupies precious space in the city, and they believe the solution lies in quality public transportation. This is the desire of young Brazilians who are changing and looking to take care of the world in which they live.

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