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“Why I Drive” was supposed to be the topic for consideration Thursday during a special panel discussion at the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, but the focus soon evolved into “Will future generations still drive?” Or perhaps it was “Will future generations still want to drive?”
Brian Scotto, is chief brand officer at Hoonigan, a website for young car enthusiasts that also draws a lot of attention from those who may be young at heart but not in age. He noted statistics from a decade ago that indicated that fewer teenager were getting their driving licenses.
But, he added, that trend may be in decline and when it comes to enthusiasm for cars, those less than 20 years of age represent a fast-growing demographic.
It wasn’t dad tuning carburetors that got this generation interested, but Hot Wheels toys and video games.
“They see cars as entertaining and that gets them into the culture,” Scotto said.
“A lot of the delay (in driving and car-buying) is about a lack of money, not a lack on interest,” said McKeel Hagerty, chairman of the collector car insurance company that bears his family’s name.
Hagerty noted that he’d paid only $500 for his first car, which he restored and which he still owns, and drives — and cherishes.
“Cars (and driving) need to be fun and accessible, but also affordable,” he suggested.
Some of the best times of my life have been while driving.” — Wayne Carini
The conversation soon turned to self-driving cars. Hagerty said such cars may be ideal for congested urban areas.
“I don’t want to drive my 1966 Jaguar through Manhattan anyway. It would probably overheat within two blocks,” he said.
“Some of the best times of my life have been while driving,” said car restorer Wayne Carini, well known for his popular Chasing Classic Cars television show,” especially when I can share the experience with someone.” Carini has an autistic daughter and said some of their happiest experiences come while driving one of his classic vehicles.
“I rode bicycles and my friends rode bicycles when we were kids,” said another collector car TV star, Chip Foose, a car designer and customizer and host of Overhaulin’. He added that he and his friends could roam far — provided they were home by dinner time.
But after a few rides on the bikes he bought for his own children, Foose said those vehicles sit in the garage. He said his and other children seem content to ride in the back seat of a SUV with a TV screen mounted in front of them or with their portable devices in their hands.
With parents so agreeable to take their children wherever they want or need to go — even if it’s only for reasons of safety and security — Foose suggested that for this generation of children, happily focused on screens while mom or dad drive, autonomous vehicles will seem a logical step, accepted as normal.
Carini added that autonomous vehicles will be a boon those with disabilities but who want or need to travel without depending on someone else.
We need to save driving.” — McKeel Hagerty
On the other hand, a recent SEMA survey revealed that 58 percent of drivers aged 16-24 spent more than $7.2 billion modifying their cars in 2017. Hagerty said he wasn’t surprised and noted that as soon as a younger person gets a new mobile phone, it gets a personalized cover and ring tones and music and apps to make it uniquely theirs.
Why would it be any different with cars?
Hagerty also noted that nearly 70 million Americans identify as auto enthusiasts and that 35 million vehicles are “owned for fun.”
But fun is only part of the reward for driving, the panelists said, pointing to stress-relieving therapeutic benefits and to the freedom to go when and where.
“We need to make people love it as much as we do,” said Scotto, who traces his love of cars to when he was 8 years old and his grandfather bought a DeLorean.
“We need to save driving,” Hagerty said. “It’s good for us.”