Why Are Young People Leaving Their Cars? Strategies to Win Back Their Hearts and Minds


The trend of young people distancing themselves from car ownership has been a significant topic in Japan since the early 2000s. This phenomenon, reflecting broader changes in economic, social, and lifestyle factors, poses a critical challenge for car manufacturers. To understand and address this issue, we need to delve into the underlying reasons and explore strategies to re-engage young consumers through effective UX research.

The Decline in Car Ownership Among Young People

Multiple studies have highlighted the decreasing interest in car ownership among young people:

  • Dentsu Consumer Attitudes and Behavior Survey (2001-2011): Showed a decline in automobile interest among individuals in their 20s.
  • Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (2015): Found that about 30% of young non-car owners had no interest in owning a car.
  • Toyota Motor Corporation: Reported a drop in the number of young people holding driver’s licenses.

Factors Contributing to the Decline

Several factors contribute to this trend, including:

  • Economic Decline: Reduced income and purchasing power among young people.
  • Higher Car Prices: Increasing costs of new and used cars.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Urban living, high parking costs, and the development of public transportation.
  • Social Environment: Growth of car sharing and home delivery services.
  • Administrative Hurdles: Complicated vehicle inspection and registration processes.
  • Market Contraction: Declining youth population and lower new car purchase rates among single young adults.
  • Diversification of Interests: Increased spending on non-car-related hobbies like technology and gaming.
  • Product Value Decline: Cars perceived mainly as transportation tools rather than status symbols.

Historical Context: The Allure of Cars in the Past

In the 1970s and 1980s, cars symbolized excitement and aspiration, driven by supercar and motorsport booms. Famous figures like Ayrton Senna captivated a wide audience. At that time, car design involved significant creativity and innovation. Today, advancements in technology and safety regulations have constrained designers, leading to more standardized and efficiency-driven designs.

Current Perspectives: Desire vs. Feasibility

Despite the decline in economic power, young people still express a desire to drive. The issue lies not in a lack of interest but in the economic and practical barriers to car ownership. Surveys indicate that:

  • 70% of Generation Z enjoys driving.
  • Over 70% want to own a car in the future.
  • Interest in car sharing and subscriptions is rising.

What Car Manufacturers Need to Do

To reconnect with young consumers, car manufacturers must adapt to modern values and expectations. Young people seek cars that integrate seamlessly into their lifestyles, emphasizing affordability, convenience, and modern features. This shift requires innovative approaches in product design, marketing, and user experience (UX) strategies.


The phenomenon of young people moving away from car ownership is not unique to Japan but is seen in many developed countries. To win back the hearts and minds of young people, car manufacturers must rethink their strategies and focus on delivering value that resonates with modern youth.

At Uism, we specialize in automotive and Generation Z research, providing insights that help manufacturers adapt to changing consumer preferences. As part of ReSight Global, we leverage a global network to conduct comprehensive UX research. For tailored solutions in car and youth UX research, please contact us.