March 30, 2012

Young Adults Are Less Interested in Driving, Study Says
More young adults would rather surf the web than cruise around in a car, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute said. They found that having a higher proportion of internet users in the United States is associated with lower licensure rates among young people. A third of all licensed drivers in the United States were under age 30 in 1983, compared with about 22 percent today. According to Automotive News, research also found about 94 percent of Americans in their 20s had a driver's license in 1983, compared with about 84 percent in 2008. Senior Analyst Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive says younger consumers are less eager to get their drivers' licenses, and attributes the trend to a societal change with how young people interact with their friends. "In every other generation, kids had to leave the house to see their friends and now you can do all that online," she said. Future licensing trends by age could have major implications for future transportation, the researchers noted, including the future amount and nature of transportation, transportation mode selection, vehicle purchases, safety of travel, and environmental consequences of travel. Click here for more on the attitude of millennials toward driving.

Analysts See Brisk Car Sales in March
Analysts predict another strong month for automobile sales when the March numbers are tallied next week, thanks to looser credit and increasing demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, reports The Detroit News. Edmunds.com predicted in a Thursday report that automakers this month will sell 1,451,956 cars and trucks in the United States, a 16.5 percent increase over March 2011 and a 26.4 percent jump over last month's total. It would translate into a seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate of 14.9 million vehicles. "After delaying purchases over the last couple of years, consumers are eager to jump into the new car market," says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds, in the report. Analyst Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com said he expects the sales volume to reach its highest level since August 2007. TrueCar predicts total sales of 1,416,703 units for March and a more modest selling rate of 14.5 million vehicles, and also expects lower incentive spending. "We are looking at a record-breaking month for many manufacturers in March with Hyundai, Nissan, and Volkswagen expected to have their highest unit sales ever in the U.S.," Toprak said in a report. Read more about expectations for March vehicle sales here.

Rolling Like a Republican and Driving Like a Democrat
According to Forbes, Strategic Vision came up with lists of new-car purchases divided by Republicans and Democrats. Over the past two years Strategic Vision has collected political party choice on more than 38,700 (76,103 two-year total) new vehicle buyers with some fascinating discoveries. A slight majority of new vehicle buyers state they are Republican (37 percent vs. 31 percent Democrat). Republicans disproportionately buy convertibles. The top five cars (and trucks) for Republicans include three red-white-and-blue Fords. However, the Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz GL Class are also possibilities for GOP diehards. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to buy station wagons and hatchbacks True to form, the top five cars for Democrats include more internationals and more small, fuel-efficient cars, including one hybrid, the Honda Civic Hybrid, and also the Nissan Leaf, the first mass-produced battery powered car. Others Democrat favorites include the Volvo C30 and Acura TXS Sport Wagon. To read more about which cars Republicans prefer – along with an accompanying slide show – click here. For a separate article on Democrat favorites, and its slide show, click here. To read Strategic Vision’s full report on how political leanings impact vehicle preferences, click here.

Consumer Spending in U.S. Probably Rose on Autos
Consumer spending probably climbed in February as an improving job market prompted Americans to buy more cars, economists said before a report today. Purchases rose 0.6 percent, the most in five months, after a 0.2 percent gain in January, according to the median estimate of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Another report may show consumer sentiment held near a one-year high, restrained by higher gasoline prices. Households may be poised to take a more active role in the expansion as the biggest payroll gains since 2006 underpin confidence and boost paychecks. Strengthening employment may also provide the means to weather rising fuel costs as gasoline approaches $4 a gallon. Cars last month sold at the fastest pace in four years. Consumer spending grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate last quarter, compared with a 1.7 percent pace in the previous three months, Commerce Department figures showed yesterday. Investors are optimistic about retailers’ prospects. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Retailing Index has increased 18 percent since the end of last year compared with a 12 percent gain in the broader S&P 500. Read more about how the auto industry is leading consumer confidence here.

Subaru Details Its Redone 2013 Legacy Midsize Sedan
Subaru on Thursday released details and a photo of the refresh for 2013 of its Legacy midsize sedan that was redesigned in 2010. USA Today reports that the 2013 Legacy will make its debut next week at the New York Auto Show. Click here to see a picture. The headline is a new 2.5-liter Boxer four with a little more power that also gets better mileage – up to 32 mpg on the highway, which would extend Legacy's claim as the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan with all-wheel drive. Subaru is not dropping a six-cylinder option, and continuing to offer a 3.6-liter H6. The new double-overhead-cam 2.5-liter Boxer four is rated 173 horsepower, up three, and 174 lb.-ft. of torque, up four, from the outgoing single-cam 2.5. It will be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or CVT automatic with manual mode and paddles. Subaru says it is a new-generation CVT that will be more responsive and quieter. The automaker estimates it will be EPA-rated 24 city, 32 highway, 27 combined – each a mile better than the 2012 model. Outside, the car gets a restyled front end with a little more drama. Click here for more on the newly restyled 2013 Subaru Legacy.

Around the Web 
Google Self-Driving Car Chauffeurs Legally Blind Man [CNET]
Range Rover's Bollinger Champagne Evoque [AutoBlog]
12 Months with the Nissan Juke [Edmunds Inside Line]
Automakers' Employees Champion Energy Efficiency at Work and Home [Wheels]

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