LOS ANGELES – Children are the future and no more decisively than in the automotive industry, where middle-schoolers of today are forming transportation opinions on how they will make mobility decisions tomorrow.
“Ignore kids at your own peril,” says Jeff Hannah, director-SBD Automotive North America, a connected-car and secured-car strategy consultancy.
Speaking to the AutoMobility LA conference, Hannah points out that Generation Z, or today’s middle-schoolers, will be the largest purchasing cohort in the U.S. on the heels of Millennials. And the emerging mobility preferences of Gen Z, whether it will mean fewer driver’s licenses or a preference for mass transit and shared autonomous mobility over single-car ownership, should be shaping the strategies of automakers and mobility providers.
Hannah spoke with groups of students across the country and offers five takeaways: Driver’s licenses are not as important to them presently as they were to previous generations and neither is car ownership, but they want electrified mobility and autonomy with a degree of control. Carsharing, however, is not for all of them.
Hannah was joined on stage by four local seventh-grade female students who shared their perspectives on several automotive trends. Since they are minors, their names have been withheld from the following comments edited for length. Their responses suggest they want flexibility, safety, social engagement and zero emissions.
Do you want to own a car when you’re older?
“I want a car, because I have friends that live far away.”
“Some places aren’t walking distance, so I want a car.”
“I want a car of the future, but I also want other modes of transportation.”
“I want a car, but something that is better for the environment.”
What is your opinion of autonomous cars?
“It is cool and a good idea, but I would want some control.”
“Self-driving cars are interesting, but I also believe they will not be safe for everyone.”
“I see the point of self-driving cars, but it also may be another way to hurt people around them.”
“They could be dangerous. If you could operate it in an emergency, that would be best.”
What is your opinion of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft?
“With Uber and Lyft, you get to meet new people, people you may not have ever had a chance to meet otherwise.”
“Uber and Lyft are a good idea, because some people don’t have cars.”
“I think Uber and Lyft are extremely important. I take dance classes after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays while my parents are at work, and I use Uber with my dance instructor.”
“It is very efficient. I’ve used Uber and Lyft before.”
Do you have any advice for the automotive industry?
“New models are getting bigger and faster, with more technology. We should try to make cars smaller. We can’t park anywhere, they are too big for our garages. Use technology better and do not waste so much.”
“I would like to see more electric cars.”
“Older cars should have electric motors that don’t ruin the environment.”
“More electric cars. With global warming our world is going through a lot right now.”