Estimated Time to Read: 2 minutes

Automakers are desperately trying to appeal to the young urbanites that constitute Gen Y and the The Millennials. The problem is, kids today simply aren’t driving as much nor do they have any real plans to do so.  Automakers are creating smaller, trendier cars that range from the Ford Fiesta to the Fiat 500 in hopes that they will appeal more to the urban youth. What they are finding is that this generation is much more into smartphones, social media, the internet and living “walkable” areas of town. They see little need for purchasing a car, let alone a fancy one.

Automakers had assumed youths in the city would be more interested in cars then gadgets but they are finding out that is just not true and sales are slumping. The effects of the Great Recession are still lingering and the young adult crowd has been hit particularly bad with many still struggling to find gainful employment.  This compounded with less interest in cars had made things worse for the auto industry.

A recent study revealed some interesting facts. For example, the amount of 14-34 years olds without driver’s licenses in 2010 is 26% versus 21% in 2000. In 2009 the same age group took 24% bike trips then in 2001, even with a 2% drop in population.  Finally, public transportation has increased a staggering 40% compared to 2001.

Many people are returning to the large cities in urban, walkable suburbs compared to the sprawling neighborhoods they once lived in. They prefer to stay connected through the internet and smartphones while in transit which reduces the desire to be driving. They are also putting a stronger emphasis on environmentalism and saving the planet so cars are not seen as mandatory. Gas prices and a weak economy have hindered kept them from buying cars in the last few years and many have decided not to return to car ownership even with an improved economy. Simply put, the realized they don’t really need a car after all and those that do are often buying used cars instead.

It has taken its toll on the auto industry. For example AutoPacific estimated that by 2011 there would be 324 nameplates on the road but the fact is there are only 285. The Great Recession killed Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, Mercury and Hummer. It not for a little help from the government GM would have gone under as well.

So what are automakers to do? It’s a good question and one that leaves them searching for a good answer. Let’s just hope they find it.

Jeff Jordan lives and writes from Southern California. He writes about cars, economics and education.  Many young adults prefer certified used cars as well.