What Would Luke Skywalker Drive?

Edmunds.com is scaling back its projection for 2011 U.S. light vehicle sales from 12.9-million units to 12.6-million units. But compared to ’10, that’s still a million more units, or a 9% increase.

 

First the good news.
 
According to Lacey L. Plache, Edmunds.com’s chief economist, Edmunds.com is scaling back its projection for 2011 U.S. light vehicle sales from 12.9-million units to 12.6-million units.
 
Where’s the good news in that?
 
Planche points out that compared to ’10, that’s still a million more units, or a 9% increase.
 
As I listened to Planche and her colleague Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com senior director of Pricing and Industry Analysis, in a presentation sponsored by Edmunds.com and Jeffries & Co. (jefco.com), a securities and investment banking firm, discuss the conditions faced by vehicle manufacturers in the current market (e.g., falling stock market, housing problems remaining, sketchy jobs picture. . .), it seemed to me that if they’d predicted a 9% decrease it wouldn’t be all that surprising.

And for all of the roiling, they believe that 2012 is going to be a better year than 2011, with not a great likelihood that things will go south—unless, of course, the European currency situation creates a global financial meltdown or. . . .
 
The bottom line: Things are getting better.
 
And I’d like to add: For now.
 
Because we are likely to be at the edge of huge changes in vehicle demand due to another factor entirely: Gen Y, the Millennials, the people under 30.
 
Cisco Systems (yes, that Cisco; cisco.com) recently released the results of its 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report.  This report is based on a survey of college students and professionals 30 years old and younger in 14 countries.
 
According to one in three, “the Internet is a fundamental resource for the human race—as important as air, water, food and shelter.”
 
Now while we’re certainly bullish on the Internet—after all, you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise, would you?—I’m thinking that ‘net access is somewhat lower on my Maslow’s hierarchy. Of course, I’m well north of 30. Still, you can eat a stack of pancakes and not a TCP/IP stack.
 
And as I am still a partisan of ink and paper, the fact that 21% of students haven’t bought a physical book—with the exception of textbooks—in the last two years is, well, unsettling. And for my colleagues who work on newspapers, they might want to consider switching careers when they learn that of the whole group, not just students, only 4% say that a newspaper is their most important tool for accessing information.
 
Here’s the kicker: “If forced to make a choice between one or the other, the majority of college students globally—about two of three (64%)—would choose an Internet connection instead of a car.”

Consider that the price of a home Internet package and a smartphone monthly fee can be equated to a new car payment. So if they’re going to be picking the former and not the latter, that’s not a good thing.

However, there are two findings that ought to make you take this in stride.
 
  1. 40% of college students said the Internet is “more important to them than dating, going out with friends, or listening to music.”
  2. 27% of college students said “staying updated on Facebook was more important than partying, dating, listening to music, or hanging out with friends.”
     
I have a hard time believing that those people would buy cars anyway. Boba Fett figurines, perhaps, but not cars.