Ed Driscoll

These Kids Today!

The Atlantic whines about “The Cheapest Generation: Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy:”

In 2009, Ford brought its new supermini, the Fiesta, over from Europe in a brave attempt to attract the attention of young Americans. It passed out 100 of the cars to influential bloggers for a free six-month test-drive, with just one condition: document your experience online, whether you love the Fiesta or hate it.

Young bloggers loved the car. Young drivers? Not so much. After a brief burst of excitement, in which Ford sold more than 90,000 units over 18 months, Fiesta sales plummeted. As of April 2012, they were down 30 percent from 2011.

Don’t blame Ford. The company is trying to solve a puzzle that’s bewildering every automaker in America: How do you sell cars to Millennials (a k a Generation Y)? The fact is, today’s young people simply don’t drive like their predecessors did. In 2010, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985. Miles driven are down, too. Even the proportion of teenagers with a license fell, by 28 percent, between 1998 and 2008.

In a bid to reverse these trends, General Motors has enlisted the youth-brand consultants at MTV Scratch—a corporate cousin of the TV network responsible for Jersey Shore—to give its vehicles some 20-something edge. “I don’t believe that young buyers don’t care about owning a car,” says John McFarland, GM’s 31-year-old manager of global strategic marketing. “We just think nobody truly understands them yet.” Subaru, meanwhile, is betting that it can appeal to the quirky eco-­conscious individualism that supposedly characterizes this generation. “We’re trying to get the emotional connection correct,” says Doug O’Reilly, a publicist for Subaru. Ford, for its part, continues to push heavily into social media, hoping to more closely match its marketing efforts to the channels that Millennials use and trust the most.

In 2012, Ann Althouse spotted the New York Times sneeringly dub Millenials the “The Go-Nowhere Generation” and complaining that “Back in the early 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-olds proudly strutted out of the D.M.V. with newly minted licenses, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. By 2008 — even before the Great Recession — that number had dropped to 65 percent.”

As Althouse replied, “Isn’t that what the Boomer generation told them to do? Cars are bad. They are destroying the planet. Then, when they avoid driving, we scold them for being — what? — sedentary? unambitious? incurious?!”

If they were supposed to believe that movie — “An Inconvenient Truth” — that was showed to them by one public school teacher after another, why aren’t we celebrating them now for their teeny tiny carbon footprint? Just give them a tiny room and a computer with high-speed internet, and they’ll be perfectly happy.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother….

Etc. etc. These kids today! Speaking of “Why Bother,” why did we boomers bother to teach them to sneer at aggressive capitalism, consumeristic acquisitiveness, and driving powerful cars if we were going to turn around and whine about their not competing vigorously enough?

Over to you, Atlantic, Vox, BuzzFeed, Gray Lady, and their ultimate boss, our semi-retired president, who began down the path to his golden Millennial-funded retirement plan with gems such as this in 2008:

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(Via Maggie’s Farm.)