When Japanese carmaker Honda launched a boxy SUV called the Element in 2002, it hoped to draw outdoorsy twenty-something buyers. The vehicle sported a sunroof in the backseat — room for your surfboard. The trunk was plenty spacious, big enough to haul your mountain bike. However Honda (HMC) may have tried to hook in young drivers, the company learned it wasn't working; the Element quickly became a hit with baby boomers in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. This wasn't exactly bad news for Honda. A sale is a sale, after all, but the outcome highlights a bigger — and growing — dilemma for the broader U.S. auto industry: How to sell to millennials?
Why this trend?
It's not just that cars have become less affordable for cash-strapped young adults, it's also that, well, driving simply doesn't seem as cool as it once was.
A recent study at the University of Michigan painted a very bleak picture for the auto industry: A fifth of young adults have no plan to learn how to drive. My theory for the massive social transition? Smartphones are replacing the prestige and imagined freedoms of car ownership. And this leads us back to my posts about public transportation and the increasing importance of the freedom to text/post/surf while traveling.
The emerging and current technological utopian visions just don't involve cars...