DETROIT -- As some automakers seek ways to better market to young consumers, a recent study may make them think twice about the investment.
Young drivers' ambivalence toward cars and driving has raised concerns among automakers in recent years as U.S. light-vehicle sales recover from the recent historic low of 10.4 million units in 2009. A recent AlixPartners study referred to young, reluctant drivers as Generation N, as in "neutral about driving."
A University of Michigan study released today found that only six in 10 Americans ages 17-19 have drivers' licenses.
Thirty years ago, that number was eight in 10.
Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, researchers at the university's Transportation Research Institute, found that the rate of decline has increased significantly in recent years:
- In 1983, 87 percent of 19-year-olds, 80 percent of 18-year-olds and 69 percent of 17-year-olds owned drivers' licenses.
- In 2008, the numbers fell to 75 percent of 19-year-olds, 65 percent of 18-year-olds and 50 percent of 17-year-olds.
- Now, in the study's latest results from 2010, the numbers have declined even further. Only 70 percent of 19-year-olds, 61 percent of 18-year-olds and 46 percent of 17-year-olds had licenses.
Although the findings show a significant decline in licensing among teenagers, Sivak said the share of licensed drivers has fallen in most age groups because of the increasing popularity of the Internet.
"Virtual contact, through electronic means, reduces the need for actual contact," Sivak said.
An exception to the national trend is Americans ages 25-29 and over 70, of which a slightly increasing share were licensed drivers in 2010.