HomeCar CultureWill future generations want to drive? SEMA panel provides answers

Will future generations want to drive? SEMA panel provides answers


Editor’s note: Get more news from the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas by checking out our dedicated page for daily updates.

“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?”

Future generations, Will future generations want to drive? SEMA panel provides answers, ClassicCars.com Journal
SEMA chairman Wade Kawasaki (far left) moderated a panel with (from left) McKeel Hagerty, Wayne Carini, Chip Foose and Brian Scotto

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.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Yeah, it’s too late. The minority of us out here who did what we could to create a future cadre of car people, male and female, weren’t enough. We were and are outnumbered by the people who use their vehicles as means of control; keeping kids on their "devices" rather than talking to them, engaging them, pursuing their interests with them. My generation was antsy about getting out of our parents’ houses; the new generation looks at being at home as a lifetime deal. Same with cars: we didn’t want our parents driving us; we wanted our own cars and bikes and did whatever we needed to in order to get them. That’s over.

  2. Agree that cost is a factor. I started driving at age 16 back in 1967, and considering inflation the cost of owning and operating a car today is more expensive than it was in 1967. My parents did not want to drive me around when I was 16. My dad took me out of school on my 16th birthday to get my licence & then handed me the keys to my own car. Besides expense, perhaps social media has played a part in why some younger people have little interest in driving. Today younger generations grew up with social media as the primary way communicate with friends, when I was young social contact was made face-to-face, thus the need to drive in order to be with & communicate with friends. One last observation: When I was young driving offered me independence to come and go I pleased. Today, and much older, driving still offers me the independence to come and go as I please.
    Perhaps self-driving autos will be the future. Benefits will be an aid for people with reduced physical abilities. Downside might be another layer of technology that reduces our ability to connect with the world around us. Example: I am a college prof., watch students walk between classes (walking too slow) because they are looking at their cell phones & not making eye contact with others or observing their surroundings. Recently asked my 4th year degree interior design students how many use the elevators in our building, 100% said yes. Asked how many glass walls in the elevator cabs. 50% said 2 glass walls, answer was 3 glass walls in the elevator cabs & these students have been using the elevators for 4 years, therefore little connection to the environment around them. Sad to think when self-driving cars are the norm, more people might have even less of a connection with the world around them because they only have a cyber connection. Lack of observing around you not necessarily unique. Tell my students when I last lived in NYC in the early 90s, I would get on the ‘F’ train around 54th street, my roommate of ten years would get on the ‘F’ train at Times Square. One evening on the ‘F’ train going to my stop in the Village, I was reading a book, eyes down, avoiding eye contact. Arrived at my stop, realized I was sitting next to my roommate sitting beside me for many stops. Never forgot how important it is to participate in your surroundings.

  3. To overgeneralize and say that NOBODY wants to drive anymore I think would be a mistake. There are still those, and always will be those people who yearn for the freedom of the open road. I think another problem that needs to be focused on, besides cost, is increased traffic in many places. For example, when I was 16 and getting my driver’s license in the Fredericksburg area of Virginia; I did not have to go far to get away from traffic and find a back, country road somewhere. I could go less than 5 miles away from home and be in a very rural area, away from all the traffic where I could um… refine my driving skills. Now in that same area, to find a back country road to enjoy; one must travel 30 miles or more. And to get there you are sitting through red light after red light, bumper-to-bumper traffic. I have a 16 year old niece who still lives there with her mom and step-dad, who is afraid to drive because of all the traffic and heavy congestion. What was once a 2-lane road when I was her age (26 years ago) is now a 6-lane highway with traffic accidents every single day. The problem is not unique to that area either. I now live in Pittsburgh, PA and see increased traffic all the time on an aging infrastructure that was never built to handle this much traffic. Unless you live in a small town that has not experienced any economic growth at all in the past 30 years, you are likely experiencing the increased traffic flow that simply takes a lot of the joy out of driving. I’ve seen avid motorcycle enthusiasts sell their motorcycles because the increased traffic simply took the joy out of riding for them.


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