Driver’s License Hesitancy Among Teens
Do you remember turning sixteen and begging to head to the DMV immediately after school to take your drivers test? Obtaining your drivers license is a right of passage, or at least it used to be. But in an age of Uber and Lyft apps and environmentally conscious teens, sixteen-year-olds aren’t rushing to the DMV. In fact, many aren’t even enrolling in drivers ed at all!
This teenage rite of passage on one’s birthday to get that plastic card that represents freedom has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. Data collected from the Federal Highway Administration and analyzed by Green Car Congress showed that in 2018 approximately 61% of 18-year-olds in the U.S. had a driver’s license, down from 80% percent in 1983. The number of 16-year-olds with licenses decreased from 46% to 25% in the same period.
The trend that began with millennials has been amplified by Generation Z, with teens citing myriad reasons for putting off or avoiding getting a driver license. Some prefer more environmentally friendly transportation options, some found driving too stressful and some just don’t care about cars.
Although market research firm J.D. Power found that millennials accounted for 32% of new car sales in 2020, higher than any other age group and ahead of baby boomers for the first time, Gen Z is content waiting for wheels.
The automakers are addressing the issue with the obvious _ a generation raised on technology likely will be most interested in cars with the newest features and connectivity.
Ford’s flagship muscle car has always been the Mustang and now the company offers an electric version Mach E equipped with a 15.5-inch touchscreen display that combines cloud-based connectivity, over-the-air update capabilities and enhanced voice recognition. A “Drive Experience” feature allows the operator to set the interior sound, lighting, responsiveness to one of three moods: Unbridled, Engage or Whisper.
“A big screen” is what teen drivers want, said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports.
“I think what is important to them is staying connected in a safe way,” Rushbrook said. “The vehicle is an extension of their iPhone or their screen device, they want to stay connected and bring their music and everything else with them into the car.”
Mark Reuss, president of General Motors, said he believes there is still a market for teens who care about more than just Apple CarPlay and USB ports.
“You still have to deliver connectivity in something people love to look at and be seen in,” Reuss said. “That generation has not been lost. They still want a great looking car, great looking interior and have fun driving it, and I don’t care if it’s a turbo-charged three cylinder (fuel efficient car) or a 660 horsepower blown LT4 (high-performance vehicle).
“Driving a fun car doesn’t have to be the most expensive, most powerful car. There’s lots of different ways to make cars appealing and that doesn’t go away.”