It's a good time to be an automaker. The Detroit Three continue to report record sales numbers, month after month.
However, not everyone is buying new vehicles.
"These aren’t young drivers buying them. These are the older drivers," said project manager and researcher Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
He and fellow researchers say fewer people under the age of 40 are buying new cars and fewer teens are getting driver's licences.
According to Wards Auto, the total numbers of new vehicles sold in 2007 and 2011 were 16,460,315 and 13,040,613, respectively.
Schoettle's research found that those aged 18-24 bought one per cent of those new cars in each year.
However, the percentage of new car buyers aged 25-34 fell from 15 to 10 per cent and the percentage of new car buyers aged 35-44 fell from 29 to 22 per cent.
Separate studies by the University of Michigan and the American Automobile Association also found similar decreases in terms of licensing.
"They haven’t been getting licences," Schoettle said of teens.
For example, Schoettle and lead researcher, Michael Sivak, found that 87 per cent of 19-year-olds had a driver's licence in 1983. In 2010, that percentage had fallen to 69 per cent.
Survey results released Tuesday in a report entitled Reasons for the Recent Decline in Young Driver Lincensing show 37.9 per cent of those 18- and 19-year-olds said they were "too busy" or didn't have enough time to get a driver’s licence.
Another 16.7 per cent said it was "too expensive" while 14.6 per cent said they could get rides from someone else.
According to a report released by AAA last week, 44 per cent of teenagers have obtained a driver’s license within one year of minimum age for licensing in their respective state. By age 18, 54 per cent are licensed.
Schoettle said "the U.S. has one of the more pronounced" decreases in the number of young licensed drivers and young car owners.
"But all of the effects we found for the U.S. were there for Canada," he said. "There's not only this decrease in the number of teen drivers, but as baby boomers age, there is an increase in the number of older drivers."
Part of the reason is simply demographics, Schoettle said. The population is aging.
"But there's a cultural shift going on," he said.
Other reasons include the cost of a new car, cost of maintenance and the ability to get a ride from parents and friends.
"When I was young, I wanted to get a licence because I wanted to drive. And my parents wanted me to get a licence because they didn’t want to drive me everywhere," he said. "Now, there is an increase in the willingness of parents and others to give those rides. There’s a shift in the attitudes by parents and the willingness of parents to give rides."
His research, conducted in 15 countries, also found a correlation between the increase in Internet access and decrease of those with driver's licences.
"This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact among young people," states the research paper Recent Changes in the Age Composition of Drivers in 15 Countries.
"We’re not sure what the correlation is there. We’re still looking into it," Schoettle said.
"The results from the current study suggest only a modest association between these two factors, given that only 7.6 per cent of respondents selected 'able to communicate and/or conduct business online instead' as a primary or secondary reason," states the report Reasons for the Recent Decline in Young Driver Lincensing. "Furthermore, it could be that high Internet usage may be a consequence of not having a driver’s license and being unable to readily drive whenever needed."