Millennials torn between phones and cars

15 May 2014

NEW YORK: The smartphone could replace the car as American consumers' status symbol of choice if the trends observed in a survey continue.

In an auto brands study, MRY, the creative and tech agency, found that 94% of US adults over the age of 35 regarded their car as a "significant" part of their lives, but that figure dropped to 87% among Millennials.

A similar enquiry as to the significance of smartphones in their lives elicited a different response, according to AdWeek. Some 82% of the older group felt this way about their phones, but 86% of Millennials said it was significant, putting it on a par with their cars.

In an earlier survey for Zipcar, 40% of Millennials said that losing their phone would be a bigger hardship than losing their car. In contrast, just 16% of those over 35 thought that life without a phone would be more difficult than life without a car.

That study also found that Millennials were using their phones to reduce their driving, as around 40% substituted texting, email and video chats for meeting in person.

Cost emerged as an important factor for the current younger generation's reluctance to embrace the automobile in the same way their predecessors had. Over half those Millennials surveyed (53%) said that auto payments, insurance, gas and parking had pushed vehicle ownership out of reach.

As a result many were actively looking for alternatives, whether public transport, car sharing or ride sharing. Mark Norman, Zipcar president, told Forbes that mobile apps were helping drive an increase in demand for public transport as they made these systems easier to use.

Almost one quarter of Millennials (24%) indicated that such apps had altered their habits, compared to just 10% of the survey overall.

And if the disinclination of this group to rush into getting a car was not enough of concern to automakers, MRY's study also showed that some 40% of all respondents would consider branded car-sharing services if they were offered in their communities.

Data sourced from AdWeek, Forbes; additional content by Warc staff