Sept. 13 - Why are under-30s turning their backs on car ownership? Julian Satterthwaite reports from the Frankfurt Motor Show on what's driving the trend - and what manufacturers can do to encourage young drivers back behind the wheel.
There were plenty of new cars at the Frankfurt motor show this week. But tomorrow's drivers are in short supply. Thirty years ago three-quarters of 17-year olds in the U.S. had a drivers license. Now less than half do. It's the same story in almost every developed market. People under 30 bought just 2.7 percent of new cars in Germany this year - the lowest figure ever recorded. Ernst & Young's Mike Hanley says long commutes are a no-no for young urbanites. SOUNDBITE: ERNST & YOUNG AUTOMOTIVE ANALYST MIKE HANLEY, SAYING: "These congestion issues are real for the people who live in the megacities. Trying to move around or get in and out of communities is a very real issue. Well this is having a huge impact on the young people who have decided their lifestyle is not going to include sitting in traffic for two hours into work and two hours back home at night." The digital era may be an even bigger factor. You can't surf the web or use social media when you're behind the wheel. Smartphones rival cars as status symbols. And online shopping can make a drive to the store unnecessary. PTC Simply targeting your marketing at young people doesn't always pay off. Kia aimed its funky Soul compact car at the younger buyer, but most of these cars are actually bought by people nearer retirement age. Why? Because the higher ride and boxy shape make it easier to get in an out if you're not as flexible as you once were. Kia Europe COO Michael Cole says car clubs and other new forms of vehicle ownership will be key. (SOUNDBITE) (English): KIA MOTORS EUROPE COO MICHAEL COLE SAYING: "Clearly one of the things we are seeing in some of these major European cities is this creation of the car usage type schemes. We're obviously monitoring that very closely - we're involved in one particular program here in Germany which could become a European program." Some young people say they avoid car ownership for environmental reasons. That may give electric vehicles a potential advantage, offering hope to companies like Tesla which is betting big on the technology. It's no surprise that all automakers are investing heavily in in-car technology. Big screens and internet connections are rapidly becoming the norm for new vehicles. But manufacturers are also banking on bigger forces. Sooner or later, young people grow up and start families. Carmakers hope that's when they'll have to give in, and get behind the wheel.