There has been some hubbub made lately of Chevrolet’s hiring of Ross Martin, MTV’s executive vice-president of branding. This move explains why a poorly constructed Chevy compact car has been made to hang out with OK Go and then thrown out of a plane, although not for the reasons that I would have guessed. It’s all part of a bigger wave of revelations being brought to focus by sales figures and surveys. Millenials just don’t care about cars as much as they used to – GM’s cars especially. To make things worse, they actually want to live in dense mixed-use neighborhoods. The rate of driver’s licenses among the 19-and-younger set is dropping quickly, and a full 46% of 18-24 year olds would rather forgo a car than internet access. I’m actually surprised that number isn’t higher.
All of this makes me wonder about something that I spend far too much time wondering about: the character and fate of my generation. Some have speculated that our disinterest in cars is due to the economy that we have come of age in to, and we will mount our parent’s Expeditions and Suburbans as soon as is fiscally possible. I tend to take a more optimistic opinion of my peers, meaning of course that I like to think they have the same opinions I do. This, unfortunately, will never be fully true. However, I have speculated that we will be fundamentally shaped by the economy we have inherited, much like the Greatest Generation was shaped by the Great Depression. I believe, for one, that our entire careers will be tinged by a cautious eye on the back door. We have started our careers as temps and contract workers and without even the slightest hope of benefits. We will never feel completely secure in our jobs, and the way things are going maybe we shouldn’t. Plan B will always be hovering in the back of our minds.
Whether or not this is a good trait to have is debatable, but we are being shaped in other ways as well. We are realizing, I hope, that the suburban model of living that we were raised on is completely and utterly, ridiculously unsustainable. I don’t mean unsustainable in the environmental way, although that is also true, I mean unsustainable in the ancient Rome way. I believe (hope) that in twenty years we will look back on suburban sprawl as a national embarrassment on the same level as other things being debated in politics currently, although I’ll keep try to keep this post as apolitical as possible and pass on listing them here.
One good development though, is that we will need other ways to get around if we don’t care much about those pay-check guzzling, time-wasting, outdoors-blocking, value-depreciation mobiles that GM is trying to sell us – and get around we will! Commuting by bicycle is becoming more and more popular, proximity to transit is a top real-estate concern among Millenials, being able to walk to work is a status symbol, and trains are cool again! Real estate developers are taking note. Mixed-use developments are exploding in popularity, some of course are better than others. I like to think this is something that will stick as Millenials come to love the amenities and quality of life afforded by mixed-use and high-density living. Hopefully, with the right mix of smart development and political pressure, we will succeed in reversing the damaging policies and reckless growth of the 20th century.
Here’s to hoping, and if you have time, share your first-car story with Subaru! (If you’re in the club, that is.)