Consumer Attitudes: Mobile Millennials

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Did the internet kill the automobile? Not exactly. 

But it did produce a new consumer group that values car ‘usership’ over ownership, prefers bike wheels to steering wheels, and expects seamless transportation options akin to mobile connectivity.

  • As the most well-traveled and active demographic to date, millennials are driving a new generation where exploration and adventure are lifestyle priorities. What they aren’t driving are cars, as evidenced by global declines in car sales, particularly in the US
  • Millennials prefer the digital highway over the physical one as research suggests a direct correlation between the rise in internet usage and the decline of car sales
  • On-demand car-sharing services highlight the consumer demand for car ‘usership’, not ownership. What better proof than Uber’s $50 billion valuation? According to Zipcar, 40% of members have given up ownership of their personal vehicles in the past year
  • Hoping to fight fire with fire, auto manufacturers (BMW, Toyota, Daimler) are starting to embrace car-sharing programs. Ford’s new Peer-2-Peer Car-Sharing program looks to be a game changer for the industry
  • Whether biking, skating or using personal mobility units (sorry, no hoverboards yet), millennials still use wheels to get around and the biking commuter boom is going full speed ahead

Private Label International-Freedom vs. Burden

 Freedom vs. Burden

 “For young people of any generation, freedom is the most important thing.   Cars used to represent that…now they’re a burden,”
says Max Valiquette, managing director at Bensimon Byrne.
As the most well-traveled and active demographic to date, millennials are driving a new generation where exploration  and adventure are lifestyle priorities, not trends.
What millennials aren’t driving are cars.
This cultural shift is most noticeable in the US, where car ownership among 18- to 34-year-olds is in sharp decline. From 2007 to 2011, the number of cars purchased by people aged 18 to 34 fell almost 30%. According to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 44% of teens obtain a driver’s license within the first year of becoming eligible and just half (54%) are licensed before turning 18. This is a far cry from previous generations, many of whom lined up at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to obtain a driving license at 16.
John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft, believes car ownership will be obsolete in five years: “You could actually start seeing the majority
of millennials in the next five years or so saying there’s no reason I should get a car. The car used to be the symbol of American freedom. Now it’s like…a car is like owning a $9,000 ball and chain, because you have $9,000 in expenses on your car every year.”

21st Century Fast Lane

For the majority of millennials and Generation Z, the digital highway has replaced the physical one.  A study by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) found that having a higher proportion of internet users is associated with lower licensing rates among young people.

As people’s lives revolve around online connectivity (texting, shopping, updating a multitude of social-media platforms), driving a car is now a deterrent, a dated piece of machinery that stops you from being connected.  As cell phone use while driving is increasingly banned, millennials seek alternative forms of transportation. When they do drive, they look to ‘usership’, not ownership.

Private Label International-Freedom vs. Burden (1)

Active Beats Auto

Whether biking, skating or using personal mobility units, millennials still use wheels to get around. The first contributing factor to the lifestyle shift is economic. High unemployment rates and job uncertainty make automobiles an unwanted expense (monthly car payments, insurance, parking fees) that millennials either can’t afford or are not willing to take on. In the US, commuting costs are growing annually; according to a recent Citi survey, 60% of respondents said their commuting costs have increased yearly ($2,600 is the yearly average). The majority of Millennials would rather apportion car and commuting costs to lifestyle activities and outdoor adventures.

Two additional factors driving the cultural sea change are sustainability (eco-activism is a key priority for millennials) and healthier lifestyle choices.

Biking is seeing significant global growth as both a social activity and a form of transportation. American bike commuters have increased 60% since 2000. In 10 years the number of central London residents cycling to work increased by 144% and outer-London saw an increase of 45%, and in Japan ‘tsukinists’ (bicycle commuters) continue to rise despite government bans on biking to work.

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Reinventing the Wheels

 Personal mobility units (PMU) are nothing new (ahem, Segway) but innovations in design (lightweight materials, portability) and lower price points are making new market entries more appealing to millennials.

 Skateboard-like PMUs including PhunkeeDuck and IO Hawk are gaining traction in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The low-cost, eco-friendly boards average six to eight miles per hour (9.7-12.9km/h), last for three hours on a single charge and are sidewalk legal. However, their rising popularity may be the result of several celebrity endorsements including Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, Tyga and Kendall Jenner.

Multi functional units such as the ILY-A and Whill offer various mobility options (scooter, bike, walker) in one
foldable device.

Honda’s UNI-CUB, a lightweight, eco-friendly robotic seat was developed as “the first personal mobility device which creates harmony with people.” While harmonious success has yet to be proven, the device is getting inquiries from large corporations as a means of transportation between large corporate campuses and warehouses.

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