The New Car Culture

By Jasmine Roberts, Director of Insights
September 22, 2022

Our latest culture drop is powered by the VICE Media Group insights communities, VICE Voices and Mad Chatter. We conducted an online survey of our global audience to explore driving behaviours and predictions in the auto market. We spoke to over 600 young people across the globe in our key markets: NA, EMEA, AND APAC.

Experience Trumps Necessity

Our research found that the aftermath of the global pandemic has given birth to a new desire for driving among young people. Driving is no longer simply a means of getting from A to B:

“7 in 10 of young people globally say a car is a way to enhance their life experiences.”

Driving liberates them. The car is an essential part of young people’s daily lives, with 70% owning a car and 64% saying they drive everywhere. For Gen Z in particular, the feelings associated with driving are ‘freedom’ ‘joyous’ ‘calming’ and ‘adventurous’, with 55% saying owning a car is a sign of independence.

But, the new generation of drivers is bringing a set of new expectations: 

1. Driving is Personal

Younger generations want new cars to be highly personalised around their needs and the experiences they desire, with 1 in 2 saying they foresee more people will customise their vehicles in the future. 

This generation purchase based on the extras that elevate their personal driving experience: with 71% saying they feel good about driving when the vehicle comes with safety features, 58% saying amenities such as heated seats and sunroof is what makes a car feel luxurious to them and 55% agreeing a stylish interior and exterior provide a gateway to an elevated driving experience. 

For brands, this means catering to their personal needs: giving young people the freedom to personalise and leaning into the features and products that enhance their individual driving experience. It also means tapping into the mindset of young car buyers, particularly Gen Z, and to focus on experience-based messaging and product activation, demonstrating how the vehicle will enrich the lives of drivers and take them to the freedom, independence and adventures they crave.

2. In Search of Alternatives to Car Ownership

Despite the desire to drive amongst younger generations, the practical need for owning a car has decreased. They foresee driving less in the future, as short utility travel becomes automated, with 61% believing more people will use car-sharing services in the future. 

Gen Z, in particular, is becoming more pragmatic about buying amid the rising cost of living, with 72% saying they don’t want to buy a car because it’s too expensive and 42% saying that owning a vehicle will be a burden on their finances. 

Younger generations are also acutely aware that the burden of ownership falls not only on the wallet but also on the planet, with 6 in 10 saying they don’t want to buy a car because it’s not environmentally friendly. However, despite positive perceptions of electric cars as an ecologically friendly option, owning an electric car is seen as aspirational. Most young people feel car companies are missing the mark when it comes to connecting them with electric vehicles and are not marketing to them in a way that is relevant to their needs or reflective to who they are, with only 15% perceiving people who drive electric cars as “people like me”.

For brands, it’s important to note this pragmatism involved with purchase. Younger buyers are on the lookout for alternatives that are not only accessible but representative of who they are and able to provide them with sustainable purpose and align with their values. As the concept of ownership changes, brands should take this opportunity to think about new ways of selling their products and with that consider new mobility solutions. 

3. Demands for Continued Innovation

All eyes are on a purpose-driven future and today’s youth expect car brands to keep innovating for the sustainable and equitable future they desire, with 6 in 10 saying they foresee cars powered by something other than electricity or gas in the future. 

Besides the environmental focus, they also expect the industry to focus on accessibility and inclusivity, with 55% saying car brands should make vehicles that are financially accessible for all and 42% saying car brands should be making accessible vehicles for differently abled people.

For brands, they must demonstrate impact for society at large; whether it is to enhance the individual or community, brands must show commitment to the consumer’s need for long-term solutions across sustainability, innovation and inclusion.

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