If you want to know what is happening to the image of cars, have a look at Motorbikes.
They started out as a transportation tool. Then became a fascination and a symbol of freedom. Teens could not wait to own one and explore the world. And today they are toys, a hobby.
The market kept shrinking along those developments and if you ask a sixteen year old today about bikes, the likely answer is: “Yeah, I rode one in a computer game a while ago.” No need to buy one, no fascination, no desire to buy one either.
A recent article in The Atlantic shows the same for cars.
“Unfortunately for car companies, today’s teens and twenty-somethings don’t seem all that interested in buying a set of wheels. They’re not even particularly keen on driving.”
And The NY Times notes:
Not even 50% potential drivers age 19 or younger had a license in 2008. This number was as high as 66% in 1998.
There are a couple of logical reasons behind that phenomenon.
Already, over 50% of the population live in metropolitan areas.
There owning a car is more expansive, not really necessary and driving no fun. Found a parking spot?
Before the internet, a car meant literally to broaden your horizon, to explore the world. Car keys = freedom.
Today, teenagers play online games, chat and exchange messages with people from all over the world. In order to leave their small town no car is needed. Todays teens have virtually roamed the world, long before they could get a drivers license.
Last but not least, for many it is a question of money.
In the past you had your first, cheap, used car; then maybe a hand-down as a student car; and after getting your first decent paycheck, you bought a shiny new car.
Today, the first job is more likely an internship or a trainee program, that does not pay enough to maintain a car, much less buy a new one.
As brand owner and brand manager, car companies better find an answer to that quickly. Or focus on trucks and railroads.