By Dan Sherman
According to Billy Joel, when “you’re 21 and your mother still makes your bed…that’s too long”. Well, my peers don’t care for Captain Jack. Wikipedia—the Echo Boomers’ Tree of Life—labels us the Peter Pan Generation due to our “penchant for delaying some of the rites of passage into adulthood longer than most generations before [us]”. We also, supposedly, tend to live with our parents longer. I’d argue that we celebrate hitting the drinking age harder than older folks, but then, the government did delay it for us. Basically, Wikipedia and Uncle Sam are both calling us a bunch of big babies.
The management at Sorgenfrei expressed concern that getting a driver’s license might be one of those delayed rites of passage. Gen X-er Joe LaMuraglia claims that today’s kids don’t share the eagerness to get their driver’s licenses as soon as legally possible like back in his day. It probably dents my car-geek rep that even I waited for 8 months after my 17th birthday. My little brother Ben was also reluctant to drive, and he still tends to let his ES300 sit in the driveway in favor of our parental chauffeurs. Do other Echo Boomers have the same reluctance to grow up?
But first, let’s consider what this would do to the industry: If we continue to postpone driving and Generation Z follows suit, younger brands like Scion will suffer with their core demographic. They’d have to slide the maturity knob on their cars from Altezza taillights and obnoxiously bright green paint to understated lip spoilers and metallic silver. More apocalyptic: if high school girls preferred to be ferried around by parents and BFs, Sarah MacLachlan would have to forego the tragic shelter dog TV ads in favor of “Save the used Jettas”.
I informally polled 25 Echo Boomers, all around the age of 20, to figure out when they got their driver’s licenses. The average differential between license acquisition and legal driving age worked out to about 6 months. The chief procrastinators waited over 2 years to get their licenses. While Generation Y puts off driving a bit, I doubt the delay is much more pronounced than in previous generations. The top three reasons given were road test failure, laziness, and inability to take a Driver’s Ed course in time—which is now more commonly mandated than in the past.
Manufacturers don’t have all that much to worry about, and Volkswagen dealerships shouldn’t be worried about taking Jetta trade-ins. Even Peter Pan has his driver’s license in Neverland.