National Edition

Empty roads: Car love fades as millennials' values change

Published: Friday, Oct. 25 2013 11:40 a.m. MDT

"Oreo, Crayola … they truly embrace the notion of listening to consumers and reacting and responding," Barker says. "They know when to talk and know how to listen."

Big auto manufacturers not so much.

Barker says the electric car company, Tesla, is an exception, however, and is on its way to be a loved brand — even though it does not spend millions on advertising. Instead, it has things like small showrooms in malls.

Trends and choices

John Z Wetmore says the trend of fewer drivers will impact community planning and success. Wetmore produces "Perils of Pedestrians," a television show that looks at walkable communities across the world, and thinks many changes are coming.

"People are a lot more interested in having transportation choices than they were a couple of decades ago," he says.

Companies are trying to attract millennials by locating in walkable urban areas, instead of fancy suburban high-tech parks, which has long been the trend.

"When people are passing each other on the sidewalk," he says, "there is serendipitous interaction that you don't have when driving by each other."

If the U.S. government's official forecasts of an increase of 44 percent to 67 percent in miles driven by 2040 is correct, that will require certain planning and infrastructure outlay. However, if Millennial driving preferences and love of urban areas, walkable neighborhoods and other factors prevail, PIRG sees a flattening or even decline in vehicle use. That future would require a shift in infrastructure spending and planning down the road.

Amber Gibson, sees car use as a matter of different priorities. If she had the money for a nice new automobile, she would stick to the Millennial trend.

"I would buy a Hermès Birkin bag instead," she says with a laugh. "I'd rather have it than a car. I'd use the bag. I wouldn't use the car."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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