Teens losing interest in driving as Internet usage rises

By Brent Snavely Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — As automakers increasingly try to market their cars to young drivers they will find themselves fighting over a shrinking percentage of teenagers who want to drive.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are all vying for a larger share of the youth market with cars like the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Dodge Dart.

But the percentage of 19-year-olds in the U.S. who have driver’s licenses dropped from 87.3 percent in 1983 to 69.5 percent in 2010, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

According to the study, usage of the Internet is directly related to the decline.

“Access to virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact among young people,” Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle said in the report.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people with driver’s licenses who are 70 or older has increased from about 55 percent in 1983 to nearly 80 percent.

The age of a driver greatly influences the type of vehicle purchased in terms of both cost and vehicle class, according to the study. It also has implications for the kinds of features and amenities that the buyer is looking for.

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