Do we still crave cars in the West or is the love waning?
Research shows the number of US households making do without a car is on the rise
Recent research by the University of Michigan’s Transport Research Institute has shown that the number of American households making do without a car is on the rise and has been so for the past seven years.
Starting in 2007, Professor Michael Sivak of the university found that 8.87 per cent of American homes didn’t have a car. More significantly, that number has been steadily rising, and in 2012 (the last year surveyed) it stood at close to 10 per cent, 9.22 per cent to be precise.
The data becomes even more worrying for the major global car companies when you leave aside the national average figure and instead start looking at the individual cities.
The sheer number of people living in this large cities, allied to the fact that you have to be pretty well off just to survive within them, means that they are not just consumers, they are consumers who dictate through market research what the rest of us will consume. And they’re not buying cars.
In 2012 New York city reported 56 per cent were doing without a car; Washington DC 38 per cent, Boston 37 per cent, Philadelphia 33 per cent, San Francisco 31 per cent, Chicago 28 per cent and Detroit 26 per cent.
“American households without a vehicle have increased nearly every year since 2007-providing further evidence that motorisation may have peaked in the United States” said Prof Sivak. “The proportion of households without a vehicle is likely influenced by a variety of factors. Examples of such factors include the quality of public transportation, urban layout and walkability, availability and cost of parking, income and price of fuel.”
While some of the increase since 2007 can probably be ascribed to the global financial downturn, as hard-pressed families give up a car simply because they can’t afford the cost, the issue of cars becoming less and less appealing to younger buyers has been emerging as a trend for some time now.
It’s usually referred to as the Millennial Problem. Millennials, or Generation Y or whatever you want to call the current crop of up-and-coming twenty-somethings just seem to be less and less interested in buying a car. The number of 16-35 year olds in America who aren’t bothering to apply for a drivers licence is also on the rise, and has hit a current peak of around 20 per cent. Conventional wisdom has it that Millennials are far more obsessed with high-tech toys such as smartphones and tablets - technology that’s vastly more affordable than even the cheapest car.