Is Gen Y still interested in the car?

It’s a question the industry is preoccupied with and which we get asked about a lot. Is Gen Y (also referred to as the Millennial generation, and digital natives) still interested in the car? And–bottom line–do they buy cars?

Nissan did some great, innovative work in Japan and London with a digital native age group which involved genuine co-design work and led to the IDX Nismo and Freeflow concepts that were the stars of the 2013 Tokyo Auto show.


There’s been much coverage in the media around this area too, with a lot of talk about how younger people generally are much less interested in cars, and that with the growth in urban populations, better transit, and services like Zipcar and Uber there’s just generally much less need for them to own cars.

However, there’s a lot of conjecture and mis-understanding around this issue, which two recent articles tackle. They reach two interesting conclusions. Firstly, in pure sales terms in the US, the number of cars that millennials are buying is continuing to grow. There are a couple of riders we should put on this graph below (today, the total number of people classified as 'Gen Y' but of car driving/buying age is bigger than it was in 2010, so it stands to reason that the graph’s rising). But ranged against boomers, pre-boomers and Gen-Xers, yes it’s pretty clear than Gen Y is still buying new cars.

Young people don't buy cars.png

The other article worthy of your attention is Richard Wescott’s piece on the BBC Entitled‘Have we fallen out of love with the car permanently?’the ultimate answer is a qualified no. We’re still keen on the car, still buying them–it’s just that the reality of the cost of learning to drive and insure cars in Europe and the UK is meaning younger people are deferring purchases until later in life, in part because they’re not learning to drive until later in life.

It’s a fascinating area–one that many brands are concerned with and which the recent announcements in Detroit which Ford (with FordPass), and GM (with Maven and its investment in Lyft), go some way to tackling.

Clearly for some, the way they access and drive cars in the future will change. But it’s clear too that young people do still want to drive. And given that Gen Y don’t all live in the centre of mega cities and that the industry continues to offer attractive lease and finance rates on new cars–for a great number of this young generation, it’s clear that the car–and owning a car–still has a future.