While Millennials may have initially shrugged when it came to driving, the generation behind them appears to be returning to the normal pattern of being eager to get behind the wheel, a new survey finds.
Some 92% of those surveyed among Generation Z, a generation loosely defined as being up to age 17 in the study, own or plan to own a vehicle — and they are excited about the possibility, the study from Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book finds.
Like the previous generation, the top reasons cited for wanting to be able to drive were the freedom, responsibility and excitement that having a car can provide. While Millennials were thought to be substituting smartphones and social media for actually driving to visit friends, some 72% of those in Gen Z surveyed said they would give up social media, new clothes or — perhaps most surprising — their cellphones to get behind the wheel.
"Auto sales are not going to take a hit because of this generation," says Isabelle Helms, vice president of research for the parent company of KBB and Autotrader. "In fact, it may prove to be quite the opposite. Their love for cars and driving is very much alive."
The findings run counter to what Ford Motor's futurist, Sheryl Connelly, has found. While she sees Gen Z as distinct from Millennials by having more of an entrepreneurial and do-gooder streak, she has said she thinks they will follow more in the previous generation's tire tracks when it comes to cars. "The forces that caused Millennials to de-emphasize cars will continue," she said last year.
The Autotrader/KBB study, based on a survey of 3,000 people ages 12 to 65, found that Gen Z is less materialistic than Millennials and puts a higher importance on automotive safety features. More than half like the idea of self-driving cars, but mostly because they will make the roads safer.
"While they will have access to some serious cash" — $3.2 trillion in purchasing power by 2020 — "they will be cautious in how they spend their money, a trait that makes Gen Z markedly different than their Millennial counterparts," Helms says.