NEW YORK: America’s affluent millennials are still interested in owning their own cars in the near future, yet are changing in the long term, as close to half see themselves not owning a car at all.

This is according to YouGov’s Affluent Perspective 2017 report, released last week, a chapter of which studied wealthy Americans' attitude towards their cars. The report studied a sample of over 2,500 US consumers earning more than $150,000 annually.

Currently, 97% of affluent households own at least one vehicle, with the average home owning two to three cars, the report states. While the number of wealthy Americans looking to buy a car this year remains flat at 25%, millennial respondents painted a more complex picture.

Attitudes to ownership are changing. Whereas just 17% of the total affluent sample said they would be willing to share ownership of a vehicle in future, 46% of millennials said the same.

Meanwhile, the second statistic suggests that attitudes to mobility are also changing. Among the total of wealthy Americans, just over a quarter (26%) see a future where car ownership is not necessary. Compare this to the 46% of millennials who can see a future without car ownership.

Elsewhere, the study found that 79% of wealthy millennials had used sharing-economy services such as Uber or Zipcar. “Despite current sentiments around affluent car buying, change is definitely in the air,” said Cara David, Managing Partner at YouGov, and overseer of the project.

For the broader millennial demographic –especially the youngest members– the desire to drive seems to be diminishing. An LA Times story in February quoted a University of Michigan report showing that only 60% of today’s 18-year-olds in the US have driver’s licences, compared to 80% in the 1980s.

Yet, the article also recognised the financial difficulties arising from the generation’s emergence into a job market in recession in 2008. Other figures suggest that millennials are still interested in owning cars, they have just had to delay the purchase.  

However, the migration into cities is a large factor in any changes, for millennials as much as other generations. For younger buyers, however, John Paul MacDuffie, a management professor at Wharton, says their attitude is fundamentally pragmatic.

“They are forever going to be more on the pragmatic car-as-commodity, car-as-appliance part of the equation,” he said, adding that “maybe they missed that moment as teenagers when you deeply fall in love with cars.”

Data sourced from YouGov, LA Times, Washington Post, Wharton University; additional content by WARC staff