Ketchum Global Research & Analytics

Younger demos may be tech savvy, but that doesn’t mean they are keen on embracing any and all supposed advances. A new Ketchum Global Research & Analytics study surveying 999 U.S. 16- to 24-year-olds, for instance, makes clear that interest in self-driving vehicles fosters one big yawn.

While 92% of young Millennials and/or Gen Z either already own a car or plan to buy one (78% of 21-24-year-olds and 58% of 16-20 have their own vehicle), less than one in four see themselves buying an autonomous vehicle, according to Ketchum’s “The Next-Gen Guide to the Connected Ride.” Only 23% of those who have or are planning to get a driver’s license say they can see themselves buying a self-driving vehicle, broken down to 30% of males and 18% of females.

“In what may be a reality check for the automotive and technology industries, the upcoming generation of car buyers is more worried than excited about the concept of self-driving cars, with concerns about safety, viruses, hacks or other malfunctions topping the list,” the survey reports. Ketchum adds that the demo is passionate about physically being in control behind the wheel, because that is associated with “independence, freedom and fun.”

Add to that 39% who say they are actually worried about self-driving technology. And only 25% think driverless cars will make the roads safer; while 43% are concerned that self-driving cars could get hacked.

What the group does care about in shopping for vehicles of the future are: alternative forms of fuel/energy (43%), augmented reality and heads-up display on the windshield (28%), gesture controls (26%), artificial intelligence personalizing the driving experience (25%), and mobile payment options in the dashboard (24%). The groups are three times more likely to choose an environmentally friendly car over a fast one, Ketchum reports: 74% vs. 26%.

Ketchum says that its report aims to help marketers and technologists better “understand, design products for, and communicate with” the estimated 39 million consumers in the age groups. “While the data exposes some hesitation, it also helps us identify and understand significant variances, even within this microgeneration,” says Lisa Sullivan, executive VP and director of Ketchum’s North American Technology Practice. “The results provide some clear signposts to both the automotive and technology industries in how to appeal to the upcoming car buyer.”