Gen Z attitudes toward car ownership, driving unexpected – survey

Generation Z.

Although the oldest members are barely driving age at 17, they are the next generation of car shoppers. And what a generation they may be.

New research from Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, took an in-depth look at Gen Z and found some surprises about how this new cohort differs from the millennial generation that precedes it.

“Gen Z accounts for nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the population right now,” said Isabelle Helms of Cox Automotive, parent company of Autotrader and KBB. “By 2020, this group will translate to $3.2 trillion in purchasing power, which is larger than the GDP of some small countries.”


“While they will have access to some serious cash, they will be cautious about how they spend their money, a trait that makes Gen Z markedly different than their millennial counterparts.”

And many of their perspectives will contradict popular public opinion, according to Autotrader.

Following are highlights from the Autotrader/KBB study:

  • Gen Z wants to own and drive cars. More than nine in 10 (92 percent) own or plan to own a vehicle, and 97 percent have or plan to get a license. They expect owning a car to make them feel free (32 percent), responsible (29 percent) and excited (23 percent).
  • The generation is not as environmentally friendly as you might think. Price was named as the most important factor in purchasing a vehicle (77 percent), higher than for millennials, although owning an environmentally friendly car is more important than it was to other teen generations.
  • The cohort is not as materialistic as millennials were as teenagers. Gen Z named Ford, Chevrolet and Honda as their preferred automotive brands, describing them as traditional, practical and trusted, while only 1 percent cited Tesla as a top preferred brand. But the coming generation also indicated that vehicle style and brand are less important than to millennials.
  • Gen Z values safety features more than previous generations. This generation places more importance on safety features than other generations did in their teen years – 43 percent compared to millennials’ 25 percent, Gen X at 11 percent and baby boomers 9 percent.
  • Members find the idea of self-driving vehicles appealing. More than half (54 percent) of respondents find fully self-driving vehicles appealing, because they believe roads will be safer, easing concerns about distracted drivers and resulting in fewer accidents.
  • Gen Z questions the technology of autonomous vehicles. Respondents prefer basic features that allow the vehicle to assist in specific tasks (72 percent) to fully self-driving vehicles (54 percent) because they cite “lack of trust in the technology to work.”

“What worked for marketing to millennials will not work for generation Z, because some of the defining traits of millennials do not hold true for the next generation of car shoppers,” said Helms. “Their love for cars and driving is very much alive.”

Conducted for Autotrader and KBB by Ipsos, the national survey comprised 3,000 U.S. residents ages 12-65 who were asked about their attitudes as teens toward driving.

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