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Young drivers show interest in hybrids, electric cars

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Rebecca Cook/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A 2012 Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle is parked at the solar-powered electric charging station at General Motors Co's assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich., in this August 2011 file photo. Younger generations are more aware of alternative-fuel vehicles, Ingram writes.

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Read between the lines, and it isn't surprising that large carmakers are starting to get more involved with car sharing schemes and similar.

They're essentially preparing for a future where upcoming generations of drivers simply aren't as interested, or willing, to take the plunge into car ownership. Car-sharing will try and fill that gap.

The young drivers that are interested in cars are now more excited about green concerns and connectivity, says The Detroit News.

A recent study from management consultants McKinsey & Co suggests a car is now less of a status symbol than it was 20 or 30 years ago, but instead a symbol of independence and an advanced life-style.

To some degree, that means cars need to be an extension of the sort of devices we're becoming increasingly familiar with--tablet PCs and smartphones. Older generations might prefer simplicity in their cars--and maybe a healthy dose of horsepower--but for the increasingly car-disinterested, it's technology that'll sell cars. 

Enviromental awareness is important, too.

Hybrids, plug-in cars and gas-sipping small cars may save you money on fuel, but they also make a statement about your attitude towards the environment. This is something younger buyers are becoming quite keen on.

McKinsey & Co's survey revealed that 47 percent of the young--those between 18-39 years old--showed greater willingness to pay extra for an electric car, and are keener to use low-CO2 vehicles.

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The younger generations are also more aware of alternative-fuel vehicles. While electric cars have been relatively slow, they're also increasing steadily. There are still concerns over price (always a factor with younger drivers) and for electric vehicles, range anxiety--but the research suggests that once these barriers have been overcome, there's little really stopping an increase in popularity of plug-ins.

The McKinsey findings broadly echo other recent surveys of younger drivers, particularly "millenials" or "Generation Y" customers.

Last year, Deloitte revealed that 6 out of 10 younger drivers worldwide would prefer to drive a hybridthan most other kinds of vehicle.

Another, by GfK, revealed that while many aren't actually that interested in outright fuel efficiency, younger buyers are very much interested in the latest generation of small cars--which arefun to drive, and--wait for it--packed with technology.

Broadly, much of the research seems fairly consistent.

While opinions vary on how important fuel efficiency is, the image of hybrid and plug-in vehicles seems as important as the economy--if only to show off the high-tech nature of the cars. And they need to be technologically advanced, and packed with connectivity kit.

That, of course, is if younger buyers can afford those cars in the first place. But with more technology filtering down into more affordable cars, perhaps the future for carmakers isn't so gloomy after all.


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