A study conducted by MTV found three in four young people would rather give up social media for a day than their car, and 72 percent would rather give up texting, texting, for a week than their car.
OMG! It seems like the death of the automobile has been prematurely reported, which we've actually suspected for a while. It also states the obvious: in many parts of the country you simply need a car to get anywhere, and MTV found 8 in 10 Millennials use cars as their most frequent form of transportation.
"They are driving and they prefer driving as their No. 1 method of transportation," said Berj Kazanjian, MTV's senior vice president of research.
The study created a stir last weekend after it was released at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco. But after the dust settled, Kazanjian spoke with Autoblog and explained several reasons Millennials didn't appear to embrace driving as readily as previous generations.
Many Millennials are getting their driver's licenses later, he noted, because of graduated driving laws that have made it tougher for teenagers to obtain licenses. While the stricter regulations are credited with improving safety, they have also meant many teens don't earn their licenses until they're 17 or 18 years old or later. Some also push it off until after college if they plan to attend a school where they can't or don't need to have a car.
While some previous research indicated that Millennials had less interest in cars, much of the generation has been too young to accurately report on, and the economy was bad for many of their formative years. MTV conducted the study last spring among 3,610 people aged 18 to 34 years old, and even five years ago a good chunk of Millennials couldn't drive or couldn't afford a new car.
Put simply: It's more of a myth that Hipsters hate cars. Now, Millennials are coming of age – starting careers, families and advancing in society – and achieving the necessary buying power to purchase new cars.
"The opportunity is there for the auto industry, and it's huge," Kazanjian said.
It also brings new challenges, however, as Millennials are more connected than previous generations. A bad test drive or experience at a dealership could result in a tweet sent to thousands of followers or a Facebook rant that hundreds of friends, family and acquaintances read and store in the back of their minds.
"Millennials are the first generation in history that can make or break a brand with the push of a button," Kazanjian said.
Plus, this isn't just theoretical interest in the automobile. Young people are really driving. Millennials drive an average of 934 miles per month, which is more than Baby Boomers (544 miles) and Generation X (790 miles), as Millennials are more likely to use their free time for road trips and exploration after work and on weekends, the study found. It also looked at other generations' driving habits for comparison.
Though MTV highlighted Millennials' interest in cars, it also highlighted an attribute, individuality, that has characterized the generation for years. The study said 87 percent of Millennials enjoy customizing their possessions and experiences and three in four said it's important that their car reflect their personalities.
"They see the interior of the car as their own personal living room," Kazanjian said. "Exterior customization is more of an expression of who they want to be."
The study also confirmed young people still harbor the age-old aspiration of owning a dream car, he added, but naturally, they want want it their way.
"Millennials do feel like 'I'm going to get what I want, and nobody's going to stop me,'" Kazanjian said.