Generation Y consumers are putting off their driver’s licenses, with just 49% of 17-year-olds have a driver’s license, a sharp drop from the 79% figure of 1978. Are teens losing their fascination with cars? There were many opinions about this trend expressed at the recent annual show of the Specialty Equipment Market Association in Las Vegas. SEMA has depended on a steady stream of young drivers and their interest in auto performance and appearance products. Experts on the SEMA Racing & Performance panel said that the industry was taking no chances on losing GenY, and that it was taking steps to keep the teen-and-later audience thinking about cars until financially ready to buy. Along with it, the panel has been making new efforts to appeal to Gen Y’s interest in “going green.”
At NASCAR, Steve O’Donnell, senior vice president of racing operations, noted that the organization has numerous partnerships and programs in sustainability under the NASCAR Green label, which was launched in 2008. The latest, with Green Earth Technologies, features that company’s pressure washers and environmentally safe cleaning products. NASCAR has accumulated more than 3 million miles on Sunoco Green E-15 ethanol. These programs explain why younger fans now are twice as likely as before 2008 to look at NASCAR racing as a green sport, O’Donnell said.
Michigan International Speedway has a multifaceted program to appeal to the younger audience. One is participation in the Formula SAE Series, an SAE International program in which college-level teams are formed to develop Formula-type racing cars. For General Motors, the company’s “E-Rod” green powertrain line is a way to reach out to this market, said Jim Campbell, vice president for performance vehicles. The E-Rod version of each package carries full California Air Resources Board approval for low emissions.