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Why the automotive industry must fight to survive as car ownership declines among millennials


By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

October 22, 2019 | 4 min read

With car ownership among young people wavering in recent years, a move by car manufacturers to get people back on the road is being disrupted by alternative mobility players, eager to get a slice of the transportation pie.

The alternative transportation market is taking hold as millennial car ownership declines

The alternative transportation market is taking hold as millennial car ownership declines

This millennial shift in transportation is documented in The Drum's Automotive issue, guest-edited by James May and Richard Hammond, that looks to uncover what will happen to marketing as the changing capabilities of cars intertwine with the changing expectations of their drivers.

"The analogy a lot of people make is that the smartphone is to a teenager today what car keys were to a 16-year-old a decade or more ago," explained Jeremy Carlson, the principal analyst who leads IHS Markit's autonomous vehicle team, on the ride-hailing boom.

According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, in 2017, only a quarter of 16-year-old Americans had a driver’s license, which was down from around half in 1983.

This is down to the high costs it takes to get a car on the road and mass transit infrastructure in most big cities - where younger generations are more likely to frequent. As such, there has been a rise in the adoption of less committal forms of transport.

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and the subscription car services Turo are among the key brands disrupting the space, adding to the abundance of alternative options.

Turo’s chief marketer Andrew Mok said that we have entered the age of the “great unbundling of the personally owned vehicle” where the car is being replaced by the phone, by a suite of apps.

According to a 2018 report by the New York City Department of Transportation, taxi and ride-hailing registrations more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 to over 85,000.

Elsewhere, due to a rise in city congestion and the cost of ownership, electric scooters are cropping up in cities across the world. Duke Stump, the chief marketing officer of Lime - the electric scooter and bike rental service said the service isn't an attempt to take on the auto industry directly. Rather, he said it hopes to solve problems everyday people face.

"We made a pretty demonstrative shift about six months ago away from the novelty of movement - beautiful people with scooters taking selfies - to really address why the movement matters and how we’re taking on congestion, inequality, pollution and isolationism," he said.

Our feature on the future of car ownership appears in full in The Drum's latest print issue, out now. Guest-edited by Richard Hammond and James May, our Automotive issue looks at the future of the car sector as tech companies and traditional carmakers compete to own the industry's future. Get your copy here.

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