Cars Matter - A Lot, MRY Survey Finds

Every 16-year-old wants one thing for his or her birthday, despite chatter that proclaims otherwise: wheels. Indeed, cars are still a must-have for all age groups, according to a new study from creative and technology agency MRY, a unit under Publicis Groupe.

"We have heard that millennials are getting their driver's licenses later and aren't purchasing cars, but it isn't because they aren't interested in driving," says Shauna Axton, head of strategy, MRY West. "Their lives are at different stages since they are becoming adults later."

Nearly all individuals surveyed (96%) own or lease a vehicle, and 91% think that owning a car is still an important part of their day-to-day lives.

Regardless of age, access to a car (90%) trumps helping others (77%), raising a family (73%), voting (68%) and being wealthy (43%). 

One notable generational difference: being wealthy is a far bigger deal for millennials (53%) vs adults over age 35 (33%).

Cars even outrank phones in their importance. More than nine in 10 adults over 35 (94%) say their cars are important versus 82% who feel that way about their phones. Millennials are more evenly split, but still prefer their cars over phones (87% vs. 86%).

"Transportation is critical to millennials, but they see it differently [than older age groups]," says Axton. "Millennials aren't thinking ownership but access. It isn't just about getting from point A to point B. Millennials see transportation as a reflection of everything they care about. And you see this [viewpoint] in other areas, like the popularity of sharing homes with things like Airbnb or with money lending services. "

Access versus ownership expands the requirements sought by drivers when seeking transportation. Two factors — personal connection and cutting-edge technology — elevate one brand over another in the minds of today's drivers, per the study. To that end, drivers say smartphones and cars need to work together to make their lives easier, provide a sense of freedom, and make it easier to accomplish day-to-day tasks.

"The intersection between mobile connection and vehicles is expected," says Axton. "Millennials demand to be connected at all times and prefer the car brands they perceive as most innovative that offer seamless technology. But the title [for the car brand that is] most connected is still up for grabs."

Still, at the moment, drivers typically associate non-automotive brands with positive attributes more than traditional car brands. Amazon, Apple, Uber, Zip Car and Lyft outperform industry stalwarts Volkswagen and General Motors, reports the MRY study. More specifically, 77% say Apple, Amazon and Nike make them happy, versus 44% who say popular auto brands, such as Ford and BMW make them happy. Two in three drivers say Apple and Amazon are changing lives, compared to 44% of those that say well-known auto brands change lives. Nonetheless, Ford and Toyota received the highest ratings among automotive brands.

Opinions about car-sharing services are mixed. On one hand, 40% of surveyed individuals are likely to use car-sharing services if offered in their communities. At the same time, fewer than one in three are familiar with the most popular and largest car sharing services Zip Car (33%), Uber (22%) and Lyft (18%). 

And not all car-sharing services are viewed in the same manner. Both millennials and those over age 35 prefer services that allow drivers to use one specific auto brand (51% millennials; 30% 35+) over services that offer several car brands (48% millennials; 29% 35+) and services that simply provide ride shares (46% millennials; 26% 35+). 

Although those who use car sharing services are ethnically diverse, the average car or ride-sharing user is a millennial-age male renter who lives in an urban area.

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