Have you noticed that there hasn’t been much of a teenage car culture for quite some time? When is the last time you saw a teenager tinkering under the hood? No doubt getting one’s driver’s license is still a rite of passage, but mooning over cars? Not so much anymore. The ebbing of the fascination probably began with the shuttering of drive-in movie theatres and laying off of car hops (def: wait staff who delivered food/beverage directly to cars, sometimes on roller skates.)
However, even after the rural/suburban landscape changed, kids still had a fascination with cars. They saved their babysitting, lawn mowing and summer job money to purchase their first junky car. For some the radio and cigarette lighter were more intriguing than what was under the hood, but there was still a fascination with having one’s own car. A car meant freedom. A car transported us from our parents’ homes filled with their antiquated rules, music and friends. We stuffed our late model sedans and station wagons with too many noisy friends. The music was our own, the smoking was incessant and we could go as far as our pooled gas money could take us. Often it was just to the local hangout (perhaps an abandoned drive-in?) where classmates with equally stuffed cars would gather. Perhaps there was some pilfered beer, maybe even some smooching, and definitely music. It was our house party without the house.
Is it any wonder then, that in 2012 teenagers have absolutely no fascination with car ownership? When you are raised in a home in which; “your music” gets equal play, your friends have 24 hour access to room/board/wi-fi and you may have free household rein during the day, what compelling reason would there be to incur the expense of owning a car? Add to that, the ability to connect with hundreds of friends anytime and anyplace, and therefore no reason to join a (station) wagon train to an abandoned lot. Not to mention the adult-ish responsibility of car ownership that is somewhat incompatible with today’s teen.
I can get this, you ca get this, and yet the good people of General Motors have hired a (37 year old) executive of MTV to develop marketing to youth. Q. Is it me, or does that strike you as somewhat missing the point?
*Boys of Summer – Don Henley & Mike Campbell (1984)