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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Doesn't every teenager drive a BMW convertible?

by David Atkins

Larissa Faw, Forbes Contributor, and the latest exhibit of elite wealth bubble cluelessness, attacks the Millennial generation for having too high expectations of motor vehicles. After all, she and her friends wouldn't touch anything less than a BMW and a convertible for their 16th birthday.

Today's teens and Millennials are often called the entitled generation for a reason. They expect to drive their very own fully-loaded luxury vehicle with retractable roof and multi-speaker audio system. If they can’t have their specific dream car, then they don’t want anything and won’t waste time getting a driver’s license. Past generations of young drivers, by comparison, were satisfied with any piece of metal that moved.

My brother and I, like many other Millennials, weren’t willing to downgrade, compromise, or to be forced to drive a parent’s vehicle. I received my license at age seventeen only after I had my red convertible sitting in the driveway. My brother refused to even look at the driver’s manual until he received his BMW at age eighteen. It is this sense of entitlement that is reshaping how automakers market and develop vehicles to appeal to Millennials. “It’s an entire soup-to-nuts makeover. The old recipe isn’t going to work,” says Hubert.
Cluess, spoiled rich kid has entitlement complex. Therefore everyone in her whole generation must have one. Sharp deduction skills there, and all too typical of the wealth bubble in the country. Still, it's hard to believe that she believes 16-year-olds driving convertibles and BMWs amounts to a generational problem. That goes beyond a bubble mentality to cluelessness on an epic scale.

But beyond that, Faw then goes on to blame Millennials for expecting too much of the cars on the market, insisting that we still care a great deal about cars. Needless to say, that too is wrong.

As someone who has actually done interviews and focus groups with Millennials about cars (unlike Ms. Faw), I can attest that what's actually going on with Millennials and cars is pretty simple: most of us can barely afford one, and especially among urban young adults, many of us would prefer not to have to drive one most of the time if we can afford not to. Having a car available is a good thing and necessary for freedom, but we don't invest ourselves and our identities in our cars. On a personal level, I want a self-driving car yesterday so that I don't have to waste productive time playing the world's most boring and potentially deadly videogame. I'd rather be getting work done on my Droid.

But if we are going to drive a car, we expect it to be as streamlined, efficient and technologically savvy as our electronic devices. We expect it to have the same decent set of "apps" that we have in our pockets every day. We expect it to perform the task of driving down the road decently well. And we expect it not to cost an arm and a leg. What we don't need? Unnecessary size and performance. We expect a car to do its job and not have to think about it so that we can go about living lives more of meaning than of pointless acquisition.

Larissa Faw, spoiled princess at Forbes magazine, takes her own warped, consumerist upbringing and uses it to accuse Millennials of being unrealistic consumers. The reality is that for us, owning a car is less an opportunity than an unfortunate necessity. When we must have one (and we usually must), we want it to work as well as our smartphones.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy for those like Ms. Faw who have grown up insulated from the realities of the rest of us is that they are missing out on the real cultural transformation that is occurring as this generation reacts and adapts to the reality of a future that will create less consumer wealth for them than existed for their parents.

That cultural transformation is a positive one, being among other things a move away from vulgar consumerism and the taking of self-identity from one's material possessions or employment. It's the sort of thing that a convertible-driving writer for Forbes will never fully understand.