Sooner or later, every industry will come to a point where the market is matured and the industry needs to think differently in order to survive. The automotive industry stands at that point -- at least in the U.S. market.
TV market (also the U. S. cable TVs) has gone through that, the landline telephone market definitely already went through that, the PC industry is going through that, now.
The question is how carmakers can morph their today's mainstream car business into...exactly what? Developing apps for their cars? Building cities? Getting into the transportation infrastructure business? The transformation of the automotive industry will definitely reshape the business of tech suppliers to carmakers as well.
Very interesting questions Junko...many automakers put more technology into cars but unless people are willing to pay more I am not sure that will increase their revenue...getting into smart cars might be a good jump start into getting into smart cities, building electrical infrastructure that runs transportation and entertaintement for all of city dweller...it is going to be interesting to see how this industry matures and transforms...Kris
@kris, agreed. I know a lot of carmakers are talking about adding values to their cars by putting more infotainment and Internet connectivity (connected cars); and piling on many ADAS features, which they hope will eventually lead to self-driving cars.
But after adding all these advanced features, what happens next when many fundamentals among people who will consume cars are changing?
I agree JUnko...that is why I don't want to buy a car with too much entertainment and communications capabilities...I have my own devices that I use in a car-less situations...car just needs to drive...and I walk and bike, or use public transportation most of the time anyways...personal view of course, but I see many young people in Vancouver where I live having similar driving patterns...Kris
Interesting article, Junko! Irrespective of what the auto companies think, this should be great news in every other respect. Assuming these stats say what we think they say. It seems that if the trend started in 2004, so it can't really be attributed to the economic downturn (which started in 2007-2008).
Possibly, if young people are having fewer children, and having them later, or not having children at all, that would cause a reduction in miles traveled per household. It would also encourage young people to live closer in to work and entertainment, in more walkable settings.
In some demographic groups in the US and also in Europe, the more affluent who would be buying the cars and driving more in the past, this fertility reduction is indeed the case. That might explain some of this. (Plus, the kids are too busy texting and playing computer games. :)
Check the hospital statistics to see who is having babies these days. I'll bet that will provide some useful info.
@Bert, I agree your analysis that possibly explains this trend: people are having fewer kids (or having them later) and young people are too busy texting (or my interpretation of this would be that people are in general more satisfied in their virtual world, less interested in actually getting somewhere).
And those factors you brought out are not just applicable to the United States, but in Japan and in Europe, I assume.
As much as I hate the word "mega trends," I think this "mega" trend will have far-reaching implications for electronics products and technologies we develop in the years to come.
This is an interesting article about the trends in the USA.
Although I don't have the statistics, a similar trend is happening since several years in Japan: the younger generation is not so interested anymore in owning a car. This seems to be one of the reasons why year after year car sales in Japan is declining. The Toyota video in your article is therefor not only directed towards the USA, but also towards their home market.
@from_Tokyo, I suspect that the trend in Japan is not just similar but could be more pronounced than the ones I described in this article.
I never thought much of the big vision stuff -- like Toyota's ha:mo -- Japanese companies love to trot out at every tradeshows. But when I started thinking about how we are driving less and owning fewer cars, I suddenly realized dthat Toyota's promo video, as much self-serving as it is, actually makes sense. Carmakers need a plan B.
The days of depending on young generations to snatch up cars (like in 60's) are long gone.
Having less people driving and less miles driven is generally a good thing I believe. The huge rise in motoring was driven by two factors - private transport being cheaper than public transport (at least perceived to be) and city layout meaning people worked a long way from where they lived. In America this second factor was driven and enabled by the car, hollowing out cities over the last 50 years, building huge shopping Mall's outside the urban area, excluding decent living spaces from wehere people work etc. This in turn forced the use of the car because low density housing makes public transport unviable (not enough people getting on at any given stop, for instance).
Factors since 2000 that change this I think are twofold: the price of oil has risen from around $25 to over $100 per barrel, thus making the cost tradeoff change significantly. In addition to this, we can do a lot more from home via the internet, so we don't need to drive so much, even to get to work.
Why younger people are so largely affected - they seem to be bearing a lot more costs than we did 20+ years ago (certainly the case in Europe) so taking on the large fixed costs of a car may seem unnecessary to them, especially when they can do so much without it (and may have got used to other forms of transport at University etc).
The numbers presented are charming but do not speak to the hard earned dollars that people are earning today. Distance to and from work has moderated but the overall rental expenses are continuing to escalate. Your information just scratches the surface of the quantum nature of our transportation systems.
We certainly do need to set our sights on more adventurous travel for all.
Speaking for myself (i'm 58), 7 years ago i dumped my car and 2 years later my motorbike ; i jumped instead on a bike. My only regret? not have done that much earlier. I had enough of the costs and the hassle of owning these two vehicles. Maintenance, insurance costs, parking, fines, traffic jams etc... Cost Of Ownership, something known in IT, is much much too high and today unsustainable. Two out of my three children don't have a car and i'm not encouraging them. Note: riding a bike is not necessary cheap, but it is an absolute pleasure, something i wouldn't have thought before. In a sense, i feel free.
There still remains the question of what is causing this decline. I'm not sure I would exaggerate it to the point that the article this piece links to does by saying that, somehow, this is the death of car culture...BUt it's still a decline that remains unexplained. Texting doesn't account for this. Nor does a decline in kids being born--toherwise you'd see similar figures in other industries. Until the question of what is causing a drop in car purchases and car uses is addressed there is no way for automaikers to solve the problem.
@zewde, when a new generation of the population is not interested in buying your products, it's always a sign of trouble for any industry.
I don't think the automotive industry is twiddling their thumbs, waiting for someone to explain to them why peopl are not buying cars.
Because they already know why.
-people feel less need to travel. (a lot can be don online)
-people are fed up with a long commute in a traffic jam.
-buying a car in 50's was not just an aspirational goal for young people but it was the right of passage for the young people. today, that right of passage belongs to smartphones and paying the whopping monthly fees.
Is it possibly even simpler than that: young people are so involved with their online world that they would rather use public transport and walk than drive as it is now illegal to text etc and drive in so many countries?
"Is it possibly even simpler than that: young people are so involved with their online world that they would rather use public transport and walk than drive as it is now illegal to text etc and drive in so many countries?"
Perhaps, but tell that to all the high school kids who drive to school, to their afterschool activities, to parties. Often in gargantuan vehicles. I haven't witnessed any decline in that. So I'm still puzzled, but pleased, with this trend.
Good ideas all around. I hadn't thought of the aspirational one, though. Very true as well. Buying a car was seen as a status statement, much like people think now of iPhones and iPads. And people used to make a point of taking that "Sunday drive." I guess that type of motivation for buying particular products is bound to change over the decades.
The effect of telecommuting was a good suggestion. Now, would be nice if someone would clue in Marissa Mayer (Yahoo!), and those who cheered her odd heavyhandedness.
Perhaps this is similar to the decline in smoking. Difference being, smoking needs to stop completely, but the need for private transportation is not likely to vanish.
Could another explanation be the wide expansion of our telecommunications infrastructure? With many activites that once required travel to accomplish now capable of being taken care of online, the need to travel has declined. I know that's certainly true in my case. The need for me to travel down to the 'big' city to get goods or sercvices not available in my rural town has dropped considerably.
While not necessarily the major reason for the decline in miles traveled, this must be one contributing factor to it.
Absolutely. Many things that would have me going on a scavenger hunt via vehicle can now be easily done on line. At least when time is not of the essence.
Another factor that has me driving less is simply the cost of fuel. I'm a cheap bastard. I make a conscious effort to take fewer trips and do more errands per trip.
When I changed jobs 17 years ago, I decided I did not want to spend 8.3% of my life simply getting to and from work, so we made a best effort to be reasonably close to work. My commute is all surface streets just a bit over 5 miles. Roads however are not bicycle friendly and after a few attempts, I decided my life was worth more than a few gallons of gasoline. My Suzuki DR350 does however get 65 mpg (when it's warm enough weather). The Buell Ulysses however only gets in the mid to high thirties, but the smiles per gallon are much higher.
@anon9303122: I too had a long commute at my previous job, about 110 miles round trip. The commute for my present job is only 16 miles round trip and I don't have to use any major highways to get there. (Well, that's almost true. I do have a 1 mile stretch of 'highway' I travel, getting on at one exit and getting off at the next one, but it's barely a highway and more of a two lane bypass around a neighboring town.)
On those days I am dealing only with paperwork I will forego the trip into work and work from home. My vehicle stays parked in the garage and commuting distance is all of 30 feet. My previous job didn't allow that. Actually, no such thing as telecommuting existed at my previous job. Heck, telecommuting didn't even exist, at least not back then.
@TwoWolves. Definitely, I agree. Virtual worlds are taking place of the real world in many ways not only for the young generation but for everyone.
I find it telling that a Ford executve coming to Mobile World Congress, to talk about partnering with the telecommunicationsindustry to create sicites in which "pedestrian, bicylce, private cars, commerical and public transportaion traffic are woven into a connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety," according to the NY Times' article.
Both my daughters have chosen to live near work. They don't like long commutes and there are great apartments near work. They are a bit more expensive but they more than pay for the reduced transportation costs. One daughter lives so close to work that it takes her longer to drive than walk. She can work 1-2 hours of overtime and she still gets home before some of her coworkers. For my wife and I it is online shopping. I would guess I get half the items I buy online.
I think there is one missing piece of the analysis. As drivers in cities have longer and longer commutes, the ability to drive a certain distance is reduced however the length of time that you are driving may stay the same or increase. It would be very interesting to know if the amount of time that drivers spend driving has increased. Many vehicles will now show the average speed of your vehicle in the info section. I have noticed that my average speed has reduced over time due to traffic congestion. It stands to reason that if it takes longer to drive, the opportunity to drive more miles is reduced.
In addition to the convenience (mostly) and efficiency (in theory) of mass transit, there's also a green aspect: it's hammered into your head: get out of your car and use mass transit. I use mass transit every day and prefer it because it costs too much to park in the city and through mass transit you get $$ breaks and faster commute time via commute lanes. The irony is the car industry is blamed, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area, for the dismantling a really good transit system that was operating into the late 1950s. The whole thing about the US car industry getting destroying mass transit is a tale told in the Bay Area by the older generation of commuters who remember the Key Rail system.
What you are describing happened not only in the Bay Area but in other cities in America (and in other countries) and is described in this book "http://www.amazon.com/dp/1621064867" ; the American car culture didn't happened naturally, but was orchestrated by car manufacturers. An example ? They bought public transportation systems just to replace electric rails systems by their own buses. Then, they removed buses and so forced people to buy cars. Et voilà. The same who are now telling us they are green, sustainable etc ...
The scene of the American teen on the threshold of independence has always been the dad tossing his son or daughter the car keys. It would be sad if all of the commercials now instead show a dad handing his kid...a bus pass. Yes, you can go a lot of places on a bus, but it is no substitute for the freedom of a car which is practically infinite. Who wants that kind of limit on the human spirit, that same spirit which has braved unknown oceans to seek new places? Why are less kids getting licenses? One reason might be the upfront costs. It is not just putting gas in the tank, but when one barely has their first job they are now hit with big insurance bills. I don't plan to get rid of my car. I value too much the freedom it offers. And there is nothing like a long road trip vacation, taking a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, or driving through the western states to visit Yellowstone, seeing our magnificent country at ground level.
That cost is why the kid just borrows the parents' car. Then later they can rent a car if they need to do the road trip. Young adults who live in a big city often don't have a car because of the cost of parking it, let alone all the other costs. It's a pain in a big city to have a car unless you are well off. Also in the city, there are those Zipcar rentals that make it easy to rent a car for a few hours.
I like your idea of the future commerical: the parent handing the kid a bus pass. My transit agency might want to use that for their next PR campaign.
seaEE wrote: The scene of the American teen on the threshold of independence has always been the dad tossing his son or daughter the car keys. It would be sad if all of the commercials now instead show a dad handing his kid...a bus pass.
That would be very comical, since your American teen would have been enjoying the freedom of riding buses, light rail, high-speed transit, and bicycles by himself or herself since elementary school. Kind of like dad taking his son aside to tell him about the "facts of life" years after the son had learned all the facts and myths on the Internet.
I very much valued the freedom of public transportation and walking when I was a child and teen-ager, and valued the freedom of not having to ask parents for a ride. This morning my aged mother and I remembered the time I managed to get home by myself from downtown Madison, Wisconsin in a heavy snowstorm when it was impossible to get a car out and bus service was spotty. People dependent on cars for their sole transportation were indeed imprisoned.
Today, I enjoy freedom every day I can avoid driving. I live in a city that's very difficult to get around in by car, so bicycling, walking, or transit free me from the hassles of finding parking and wasting time sitting in traffic.
I guess we all have different views of what constitutes freedom and what constitutes imprisonment.
@Betajet - I'm with you. I occasionally have to drive to my employer's office in the centre of Sydney - usually for technical work so I have to take tools and/or equipment, and I drive. 200Km, usually 3-1/2 to 5 hours each way depending on the traffic. We recently got a daily train service and not long ago I had to go to Sydney for a meeting - no tech work - so I used the train. 3-1/2 hours each way, so as good as the best drive, and no stress. It was great. Wish I could do it more often - I am working on a backpack tool kit!
...It would be sad if all of the commercials now instead show a dad handing his kid...a bus pass.
I laughed out loud when I read that sentence. It's well put. and it is so true, isn't it?
But of course, instead of a buss pass, there is always a bicyle! I remember the first summer when I learned hot to ride a bicyle, what an exhliration tht was! I realized then that I could go anywhere with my bike without my parents' supervision.
But of course, decades later, when I lived in Silicon Valley, I realized that kids these days riding their bikes -- especially in Calif. -- are in fact supervised by their mother (or father); bicycling seems to be a family excursion, rather than kids getting away from their parents and enjoying the first taste of freedom.
Some of these utopian descriptions of the wonders of mass transit are going to sound hollow to a whole lot of people.
For mass transit to be viable, people need to live in dense urban environments. If they do not, then mass transit will not be remotely useful enough. It may work during peak rush hour periods on work days, to get and from work, but it won't even allow for a side trip to the food store after work, never mind during weekends and holidays.
I've always obsessed about living where I don't have to depend on driving. The problem is, it seems to me that no one else out there obsesses about this. So for example, when we moved to our current close-in suburbs address, I first made sure that public transit had plans to serve our community. And they did. It was even popular, at first, so that service was available all day long, during work days (never weekends though!).
Then evidently my neighbors started losing interest. They had given whatever "proof of virtue" they thought was required, and bus ridership dropped. The more it dropped, the more the county slashed the schedule. Until now, it's virtually useless, so I have to drive to the Metro stop (less than 4 miles, sometimes I've walked it), to get on mass transit. Which I do every work day.
Biking? Get real! Do you have a shower at work? Or do you inflict yourself on your co-workers for the entire working day? We have hills, often wind, hot sticky days in summer and frigid days in winter, and so on. Come now.
"Do you have a shower at work? " Hi Bert22306, yes, i have the chance to have a shower at work. I agree it would be more difficult to commute with my bike without. But, but, don't forget we are living in a world especially designed for cars (and on purpose). So, if i take my work location as an example, it's no problem for building huge underground parkings (on two levels) but there's only two poor racks for parking bikes and two showers (mainly used for those who are jogging).
"Biking? Get real!" ; I'm riding my bike everyday, summer and winter, by night, 45km (30 miles) a day no problem for now. As i said in a former post, it's a matter of equipment and i have to say it is not cheap. But once you have it, it's doable. My average commute time is much lower than by car, i enjoy speeding all those poor drivers alone in their cars in the traffic jam, listening for the tenth time to the same jingle. I don't mind being wet or cold. My health has improved by orders of magnitude.
In the Netherlands for example, not necessarily a warm country in winter, bike represents near 50% of commutes. But since the sixties, infrastructure is designed for bikes and pedestrians, not for cars. In the end, that makes a big difference. Want to know why? My guess is they don't have a car industry to protect.
So i would conclude by saying that cars are not a solution but a real problem.
You seem to assume that biking is in the cards for everyone. Not so. It DOES depend on where you live. My 50 mile each way commute takes about an hour. To use public transportation (ride bike to bus/train ride, stop to stop, take bike to work) would take approximately 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours each way. No thanks. My family reaps the benefits of the larger house and better schools and the less dense population without the commute. For my part, I listen to 25 books or more per year (thank you public library!) and have a relaxing travel. I ride my bike for fun and exercise. I am thankful that I don't have to rely on it for commuting. Cars are a great solution!
Might not a lot of changes in driving habits have been significantly affected by the high fuel prices we have experienced in the US since around 2003? I pulled available data from the US Energy Information Administration on gas prices between 1990 and 2013. After averging all areas of the country and plotting it by date, it was rather startling.