The Carless Generation
There is always going to be a generation gap. The term “generation gap” was coined in the 60s when it became evident that Baby Boomers had developed a whole new set of rules for themselves that put a significant chasm between them and their parents in terms of interests and values. Generation gaps will always define new generations and every generation will march to the beat of their own drum. For me, the gap got Grand Canyon wide when I read the LA Times piece by Martin Zimmerman that cited a J D Power study which indicated that Generation Y has less interest in cars. As a lifelong car guy who built an entire social world around cars I would have to ask; “Generation why?”
J D Power monitored Internet traffic conversations on Autoblog, Twitter and Facebook for several months earlier this year and came to the conclusion that teens and early 20-something “careerists” had less interest in our four-wheeled friends than previous generations. I understand the social websites but why would anybody get on a car website to talk about something in which they apparently have no interest?
The malady has even gotten a new name based upon the drop in car ownership in Japan. Social scientists in desperate need of a new buzzword fix call it “demotorization”. So young “careerists” have decided to “demotorize”. I have “demotorized” in the past under a different plan. My plan was to drive the hell out of a badly neglected car until a piston tried to bust its way out of its cylinder jail. Most of that decision to “demotorize” was in the hands of my car. Gen Y has changed the definition to include a conscious and apparently rational decision not to own a car.
I should be happy that a new generation has decided not to become the newest members of the gridlock gang, but mostly I am puzzled by the news. The study indicated that Gen Y was a comfortable member of a new cyber society that “perceive less of a need to physically congregate, and less of a need for a mode of transportation”. Personally the need to physically congregate was one of the driving forces behind my first car.
What has changed the game for Gen Y? I realize that the Internet has a very generous supply of porn and that would definitely have kept me hunkered down in my parents’ basement for a sizeable chunk of my high school years. But eventually I would have ventured into a real flesh and blood world filled with real women and real possibilities. None of that would have happened in my parents’ house stranded without any wheels.
There were always a couple of great reasons to own a car from day one for any guy ever since the first horseless carriage- to see the world and meet women in no particular order. The spirit of adventure has always been the major reason for a set of car keys until marriage, parenthood and soccer suck the fun out of cars and replace fun with practicality. Then that beautiful symbiotic threesome relationship between cars, freedom and youth gets vaporized by parental responsibility and minivan ownership.
A car is the first real taste of independence in a kid’s life. Take away a car and the emotional umbilical cord survives longer than it should and the danger of a forty seven year old basement dweller living with his aging parents becomes a real possibility. This is the ugly reality of a generation with no plan to cross an important threshold which includes interaction with the real world.
Don’t get me wrong, the Internet highway is a great place to spend some time. So is a real highway, especially if it gets some kid behind a real steering wheel on a real road to physically congregate with eligible young females in the real world. That should not be the road less traveled when you’re 19 years old with a raging case of hormones and no amount of free porn will change that reality even if you can type real fast with one hand.
Sure a kid can google earth and visit nearly every square inch of the planet through his Apple or I-pod but that is hardly a multi-dimensional experience filled with any tactile sensation beyond the touch of a keypad.
I still believe Dinah Shore when she suggested that we see the USA in our Chevrolet even if a lot of people choose other car brands in 2009. The important thing is that cars are part of a real world experience and the call of the road is also still the call of the wild, complete with flat tires and other road side adventures.
Most of us need a car for very practical reasons in our lives. When we were younger we needed a car for less practical reasons but for a no less important reason: We needed to take a ride into life’s experiences and a steering wheel got us there quicker than a keyboard. We still need that kind of lesson.
[Read more Jim Sutherland at mystarcollector.com]
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